Gordon Cay project to be tendered in Sept
McPherse Thompson, Assistant Editor - Business
Kingston port will be ready for Panama Canal opening, says Hylton
The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) says it has already undertaken technical work, identified financing and is preparing to solicit international bids in September for dredging the Kingston Harbour.
The project is meant to ready the Kingston port for new business expected to accrue from the expansion of the Panama Canal, now due for completion in April 2015.
The most important part of the Gordon Cay development is dredging to a depth of 17 metres, the Port Authority told Wednesday Business.
The harbour is about 14 metres deep. The dredging will allow the Kingston port to accommodate the larger container vessels that are expected to pass through the Panama Canal once the waterway is widened.
"In this regard, the authority has already undertaken technical work in preparation for the Panama Canal expansion and is preparing to solicit international bids in September," the state agency's president and CEO Noel Hylton said via email.
The Port Authority also said it was "not presently aware of any factor that will delay the development".
Regarding the US$150 million required to undertake the Gordon Cay project, Hylton said the Port Authority has "already received financing offers".
"However, their evaluation will be conducted after all the tenders have been returned," he said.
The planned development of lands owned by the Port Authority at Fort Augusta in St Catherine is also integral to expanding the trans-shipment facility. But Hylton said "it was not the intention of the PAJ to complete the Fort Augusta development in time for the Panama Canal expansion".
The Panama Canal is now able to accommodate container vessels with a capacity of 4,500 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, but when widened will be able to handle vessels transporting up to 12,000 TEUs.
The French shipping company, CMA CGM, which entered into a non-binding agreement with the Jamaican government last year, has proposed to either renovate an existing section of Gordon Cay and/or add berthing capacity adjacent to Gordon Cay to accommodate super post Pananmax vessels and facilities for trans-shipment of cargo.
Last year, China Harbour Engineering Company also expressed an interest in providing private investment to develop a new container terminal on lands owned by the Port Authority at Fort Augusta.
The Port Authority hopes to complete its dredging and expansions by fiscal year ending March 2014.
The dredging project is expected to improve the comparative advantage of Kingston Container Terminal as a trans-shipment hub for draught restricted ports of the United States' east and gulf coasts.
East coast ports like Savannah, Jacksonville and Charleston are hoping to attract added traffic from the developments in Panama, according to reports out of the US, but none are deep enough to allow the larger vessels to enter fully loaded.
Chief executive officer of the Panama Canal Authority, Alberto Aleman Zubieta, has also reportedly criticised United States and Canadian officials for not preparing to take advantage of the expansion of the canal.
Panama will not realise full benefits if US east coast ports are not also dredged to the requisite 17 metres, or about 50 feet, to accommodate the larger ships.
In June, the US Army Corp of Engineers reported to Congress that seaports in the southeast would require up to US$5 billion to deepen the shipping channels to accommodate post-Panamax ships.
US President Barack Obama has since issued an executive order to speed up dredging of harbours along the eastern seaboard, but they are not expected to be completed before 2020, five years after the April 2015 date now anticipated for the opening of the widened Panama Canal.