Hylton says development of logistics project does not hinge on Goat Islands proposal
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
JAMAICA'S LOGISTICS-hub initiative will not be jeopardised if China Harbour Construction and Engineering Company (CHEC) decides against creating the port facility and logistics and industrial park, which it has proposed for Goat Islands, located off the coast of St Catherine.
According to Anthony Hylton, the industry, investment and commerce minister, the Goat Islands project has not been factored into projected investments, which have been measured at between US$10 billion and US$15 billion.
"Goat Island is not the logistics hub. It is a specific project proposal - a significant one - but it is an element of the logistics hub," the minister said.
The Government had earmarked Fort Augusta in St Catherine for the creation of a port facility and logistics and industrial park. However, the Chinese investors said based on the plans they have, that area was not big enough.
They have since suggested that the Goat Islands be the site for the project.
NO GOVERNMENT GUARANTEES
Yesterday, Hylton noted that as a private investor, CHEC enjoys no government guarantees or support.
"They have to take the risk of any project they decide to invest in and, therefore, in the final analysis, they have to determine if they have the risk appetite and whether they want to proceed with a particular project, subject, of course, to our normal environmental best practices, tests and regulations," Hylton said.
"While they don't have all of the cards, they have the final card to play, and it is they who decide whether to play or not play," Hylton said.
CHEC has said it is prepared to pump US$1.5 billion into the Goat Islands project, which would involve the construction of a container terminal and industrial park.
"If you have US$1.5 billion on the table and you take it off, it is US$1.5 billion gone. But it would not be fatal to the logistics-hub project," Hylton said.
The Government has estimated that the logistics-hub initiative, which involves the creation of seaports, airports and special economic zones, could yield an estimated US$10 billion in investment.
Hylton stressed that although the Goat Islands have been named in the proposal, "It will have to go though its normal vetting process and procedures and we will see what the end result is. In the meantime, the other parts of the logistics hub are proceeding apace."
With its geostrategic location, Jamaica is seeking to take advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal, which is due to be completed in 2015.
The expanded canal will be able to receive larger ships, and Hylton said Jamaica is poised to be the hub for trade, supplying markets in the eastern seaboard, South and Central America with goods brought primarily from southeast Asia.
"There are a number of other investors from all over the world, [who] I think a global hub should attract. It is not just Chinese. We have people from the Middle East, Canada, the United States, South America - all over," Hylton said.
He said, for example, that the response to the tender process for the Caymanas Enterprise Zone was overwhelming.
"We have something before Cabinet now to determine the preferred bidder," he said.
The minister told The Gleaner that the Government will be ready for the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in 2015.
He said the first phase of the project, which involves the dredging of the port of Kingston, the privatisation of the Kingston Container Terminal, and the build-out of phase one of the Caymanas Enterprise Zone, will be completed in time for the opening of the canal.