Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
OCHO RIOS, St Ann:
WITH ITS economy crippled by the downturn in cruise-ship arrivals since the Falmouth Pier opened two years ago, Ocho Rios, and St Ann by extension, is warming to the prospects of Jamaica's global trans-shipment and logistics hub reviving the parish's flagging economy.
The logistics hub, being touted by Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton, will be the fourth such in the world following those in Singapore, United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands.
A logistics hub is an area where all activities relating to transport, logistics and goods distribution for national and international transit are carried out by various operators.
The expansion of the Panama Canal, scheduled to be completed in 2014, gave birth to the idea of a logistics hub in Jamaica. With the hope that the expansion will see increased maritime activities in the region, Jamaica is seeking to capitalise on this expected increase by establishing the hub at a cost of around US$8 million.
Ports to benefit
The initiative will see local ports, including Ocho Rios, benefiting as a result.
Last Saturday, Hylton, along with a team that included Dr Eric Deans, chairman of the Jamaica Logistics Task Force, and Reginald Nugent, senior adviser in the ministry, attended a joint St Ann Chamber and Jamaica Chamber of Commerce quarterly luncheon at Almond Tree Restaurant at Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rios, St Ann, to drum up support.
"I am energised about the prospects for the Jamaica Logistics Hub Initiative as a truly national endeavour, in which the parish of St Ann will have a strong role to play," Hylton stated.
"St Ann and surrounding parishes will not be left out of the development plans or out of the opportunity to invest in the initiative," he added.
He went on: "When I consider the Ocho Rios Cruise Ship Port and the new Ian Fleming International Airport, I am mindful that these are the most important points of entry in this region. Through these gateways, thousands of people set foot on Jamaican soil primarily for the purpose of leisure.
"The Jamaica Logistics Hub can change this over time. The profile of many of the new visitors will change. Many will be attracted to come to this region for the new investment possibilities that will be spawned by the logistics hub here in Ocho Rios and beyond. And my message to you today is to be prepared, and to make the best of every opportunity presented."
Ensure j'cans get jobs
A major outcome of this initiative is job creation, the minister said, noting that the Government must ensure that the vast majority of the jobs are assumed by Jamaican nationals.
"I think the response was very good; a lot of people came out, we were even surprised with the turnout," St Ann Chamber President Leopold Williams told The Gleaner.
"People listened and they were really happy that something was really happening, something was about to happen. And by the question and answer session you could tell people were interested and wanted to find out what was going to happen."
Williams said the expectation also is that with the new highway between Kingston and Ocho Rios to be built, which will reduce the travel time between both townships to below an hour, there will be a trickle-down effect of business from the capital city.