Tue | May 30, 2017

Jamaicans at sea over logistics hub

Published:Friday | October 10, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Jamaicans appear to be at sea, despite raging debates and discussions around the prospects of a logistics hub to drive economic growth in the country.

More than half of the Jamaican populace is not convinced that they stand to benefit from the proposed hub.

China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) told The Gleaner last month that pending a concrete decision from its parent company in Beijing, it still views Jamaica as an ideal location for a regional trans-shipment port.

But unlike the Chinese, who have indicated that they are keen on moving ahead with such a port in local waters, and the Jamaican Government, who are gung-ho over such a venture, most Jamaicans seem to be at a loss.

The Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll carried out on 1,208 persons on September 6-7 and 13-14 found that 67 per cent of Jamaicans do not believe that the Government has done a good job of explaining what the logistics hub is and what it would mean for the citizens.

NOT DOING A GOOD JOB

Nearly a year has passed since Johnson went into the field to ask the same question. At that time, 75 per cent of the respondents opined that the Government had not done a good job explaining the idea of a logistics hub.

This means that only eight per cent of Jamaicans have changed their position since then, with the +3% or -3% sampling error being considered.

Only 11 per cent are of the view that the Government has done a good job, compared to eight per cent in December of last year.

It has got even worse, as 22 per cent are claiming not to know what the logistics hub is, compared to 17 last year.

Asked whether the hub would benefit the people of Jamaica if constructed, 27 per cent were not convinced, compared to 22 per cent who answered 'yes'.

The picture has not changed considerably since last year, as 31 per cent said 'no' at that time, compared to 28 per cent this time around.

Even more dismal, 51 per cent said in September of this year they did not know whether any benefit would emerge, compared to 41 per cent last year.

In attempting to sell the idea to Jamaicans, CHEC stated that dating back to the 15th century, when pirates used Port Royal as a sea-merchant haven, it was evident that Jamaica was strategically located for shipping pursuits between the Caribbean and Europe.

NEED TO CAPITALISE

"Today, with the widening of the Panama Canal set for completion in 2016, preparations should be made to accommodate ships with a capacity of 15,000 containers, and Jamaica needs to capitalise on its geographic location," CHEC added.

"The country can serve as a major trans-shipment hub with the goal of servicing the Caribbean and the Americas with large ships traversing through the canal to offload goods to feeder lines and return via the same route," stated CHEC.

The Chinese firm claimed that the development of such a port in Jamaica could be likened to other first-class, state-of-the art facilities such as the London Gateway; Singapore's premier global port; and Dubai's Jebel Ali Port, which is ranked as the biggest container port outside of Asia.

Closer to home is the Cólon Container Terminal SA, a subsidiary company of the Evergreen Group, servicing an impressive number of international shipping lines.

These ports are among the most productive and efficient in the world due to their location, harbour, and port-facility capabilities, high-tech equipment and their quality-control mechanisms.

CHEC said its vision and business model for Jamaica, although on a smaller scale, is similar to these successful mega ports as the country is currently in need of an economic boost.

"As the second-largest marine engineering company, in terms of dredging capacity, CHEC has shown an interest in investing and constructing a port of this magnitude," said CHEC.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com