Ronald Mason, Contributor
Demand for development has persisted despite the fact that Jamaica's coastal areas are highly vulnerable to natural hazards such as hurricanes and storm surges.
The south coast has a shallow shelf (less than 120 feet deep) extending 5.20 miles from the shoreline). There is little reef development along the south coast. Compare the north and northeast shoreline's 5,000-30,000 feet depth in the Bartlett trough.
The south coast is characterised by black sand beaches which are formed from river sediments as the extent of corals is not as vast along that coast (Natural Resources Conservation Authority, 1987).
The major causes of coral reef destruction have been disease, hurricane damage and the loss of herbivores through extreme overfishing (National Environment and Planning Agency, 2001).
The value of the Kingston Harbour in 2002 was estimated to be US$510.31 million per annum (NRCA, 2005).
Coral reefs are expected to be impacted significantly because of their sensitivity to temperature shifts brought about by climate change.
The above are bases for consideration regarding the suitability of the Old Harbour Bay region for the proposed marine development.
Another basis is the cost of handling freight. A critical factor in the economic viability of the logistics hub is the cost to handle the freight from the port to hub on to international, rail and air distribution. The public may find it important that among the world's largest utilisers of logistics hub are FedEx, DHL and UPS. All are predominantly road and air services.
Remember that freight cannot be expected to leave our custom control as it moves along the chain, so placing the hub at Savanna-la-Mar, for example, would drive up the cost and makes us uncompetitive. Consider the chain from Kingston Container Terminal to the Goat Islands port on to Vernamfield. That is the vision.
The other aspects of the marine development of the dry dock and commodity bulk are peripheral to this chain. Hence, Cow Bay, St Thomas, and Jackson Bay in Clarendon.
The degradation of Goat Islands is well on the way. The fish stock is depleted. The islands are inhabited by 50 iguana, which we thought were already extinct in the 1970s. Nobody missed them from Goat Islands and they still inhabited a small section of Hellshire Hills.
The calculation of 4,000 jobs being created by the logistics hub is questioned in light of the Caribbean economic analysis for foreign direct investment creating one permanent job for every US$1 million invested. In the case of US$1.5 billion, this means 9,000 jobs. Add to that the indirect jobs for restaurants, households, places of amusement, schools, etc.
In Dubai, a plane takes off every two minutes. However, acknowledging the catchment area for the Dubai logistics hub serves two billion persons, ours would be more than 800 million. Singaporean airports handle 60 million passengers annually. The population of Singapore is five to six million; Dubai, 2.5 million; Jamaica, 2.7 million.
The potential for Jamaica is to be found in what we currently do: annually, 1.8 million 20-foot containers, while Singapore handles 32 million annually. Jamaica handles 10,000 tons of air cargo annually.
Let us look at the layout of Dubai. The Dubai Industrial City is strategically located adjacent to the Al Maktoum International Airport and is 28km from the Jebel Ali Free Zone. The city provides direct connection to Emirates Road, Dubai, by road, providing easy and convenient access to global transportation points via road, air and sea. (Khaleej Times, 04/27/2013).
In local terms, the Port of Kingston to Goat Islands to Caymanas Economic Zone to Vernamfield by road, rail and air. This is part of Jamaica's strength. The location is on major shipping lanes; it's climate conducive 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year. We have a young population, massive numbers of whom are under 35 years of age. Jamaica has a workforce of proven trainability - just ask the bauxite, and free trade zone former operators.
There is developed IT, banking, accounting infrastructure, expansion capacity and facility with the standard language of business, to wit: English. Post-secondary education facilities, the Caribbean Maritime Institute, community colleges, HEART. We will need trained and certified welders, and University of Technology graduates in IT and engineering.
Degradation? Let us hear from Roger Bradbury, an ecologist, doing research in resource management at Australia National University: "It's past time to tell the truth about the state of the world's coral reefs, the nurseries of tropical fish stocks. They have become zombie ecosystems, neither dead nor truly alive in any functional sense, and on a trajectory to collapse within a human generation. There will be remnants here and there, but the global coral reef ecosystem - with its storehouse of biodiversity and fisheries supporting millions of the world's poor - will cease to be.
"Overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution are pushing coral reefs into oblivion. Each of those forces alone is fully capable of causing the global collapse of coral reefs; together, they assure it. The scientific evidence for this is compelling and unequivocal, but there seems to be a collective reluctance to accept the logical conclusion - that there is no hope of saving the global coral reef ecosystem.
"This is less a conspiracy than a sort of institutional inertia. Governments don't want to be blamed for disasters on their watch, conservationists apparently value hope over truth, and scientists often don't see the reefs for the corals."
Paul Hay, Caribbean Journal contributor, writes: "The Chinese initiative cannot be easily dispensed with. It is critical for the success of Jamaica's logistics aspirations. Jamaica is off to a late start; it cannot afford to drop the baton now. It must decide whether it wants to enter the arena of global trade or be forever satisfied with its meagre tourism, bauxite and remittance earnings."
Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney, mediator and talk-show host. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.