Fri | Jun 23, 2017

Technological development crucial for logistics hub

Published:Wednesday | September 24, 2014 | 9:00 AM

Jermaine Francis, Gleaner Writer

A critical pillar of all globally competitive logistics hubs is their ability to manipulate and integrate the highest level of technology available in their daily operations. And while Jamaica is one of the region's leaders in technology usage, there is more to be done to get the country fully prepared to meet the demands that a logistics-centred economy requires.

Gordon Foote, general manager of IBM Jamaica, said that the country is ripe to take up the opportunities that the expansion of the Panama Canal will present, but moves must be made to further develop the country's technology infrastructure.

"We are not fully prepared, but the infrastructure can be put in place ... . As today, the movement of information is as important as the movement of cargo," he said.

He explained that the enabling technology to deliver high-speed information and communication services will be needed for the country to make better plans to facilitate the number of cargo expected to visit the country's shores annually.

"Especially with the planned implementation of the special economic zones, the infrastructure to support these is crucial in predicting and analysing the environment along with what's happening on the ships," Foote stated.

He added that if these are not in place, ships will come to our shores and be delayed, which is bad for business. "We need the most advanced technology to make us efficient and environmentally friendly."

Foote explained that with the operation of a logistics hub, many parties, such as the companies' office, tax administration, customs and security forces will have to share information at the highest speed.

"The information that we may need to garner from various agencies that are going to be involved will need to be easily accessible to many parties," he added.

time for implementation

He said though the country is not fully there yet, he is confident that plans are afoot and investments are being made.

He cautioned, however, that the sort of technological development needed to facilitate the logistics hub will take time to be fully implemented.

"The technology can be put in place, and we already have companies here that are making strides in information, communications and technology development. From the applications and information sharing side, there are decisions that should be made and we should recognise that we are not the first to set up a logistics hub, so we can learn from others," he suggested.

He noted that it is for the rest of the country to latch on to the idea that the opportunities that can be derived from the hub are real and get prepared to take advantage of the technological advancements that will inevitably happen.

"I think the opportunities are real and will happen to us. It is for us to mobilise ourselves and to grasp these opportunities. Through no fault of ours, more cargo traffic will pass us, so it is for us to make sure that some of these benefits roll into the country," he said.

The Jamaica Logistics Hub task force has said Jamaica's maritime, aviation and telecommunications and technology capabilities are merits that will invariably attract investors.

The task force has said the upgrading of the customs management systems to ensure a more streamlined and efficient customs experience is part of the technology advancement that has already started.