German ship repairer to build ship repair dockyard and floating docks
The joint-venture company building out a dockyard for boat repair in Jamaica is training workers for the business, even as it finalises financing to further ramp up the operation.
Nearly one year into its operation, German Ship Repair Jamaica Limited (GSRJ) says Jamaica lacks the skills set needed for the dockyard, forcing them to invest in training, according to company Chairman Peter Harren.
As for the amount of capital it is chasing, Harren said GSRJ is talking to the banks about the investment and so would not share those figures at this time. He needs the funds to scale up the operation.
"We have already repaired numerous ships and offered our services to different shipping lines," he said via email.
"We are presently increasing our technical staff to be able to meet the demand for our services. We are steadily increasing the business while the larger development project of a ship repair dockyard, including the building of marine infrastructure and the investment in two floating docks is being secured."
Those floating platforms will allow GSRJ to lift vessels out of the water and perform much more complex repairs, Harren said.
GSRJ began operating in November 2016. Its investors include Harren's company H&P Caribbean Maritime Services Limited; Kloska Technik GmbH; and Jamaica Dry Dock Limited owned by Jamaicans Charles Johnston and Kim Clarke.
The foreign investors said they chose Kingston for the dock repair service because it is a major Caribbean economic centre and a main maritime hub.
From Newport West, in the same complex from where GSRJ operates, Harren runs H&P Ship Management Office Kingston, H&P Caribbean Maritime Services, and, since 2000, a branch of Caribbean Feeder Service, CFS, which redistributes bulk cargo to small islands within the region.
"Kingston Harbour is the focal point of an increasing marine traffic in the Caribbean Sea and the middle American region. For example, CFS services the smaller island from home port Kingston with up to 16 container vessels trading in the region," Harren said.
Approximately 400 vessels drop anchor in Kingston Harbour each year, and the numbers are growing, he added.
"Kingston, the seventh-biggest natural harbour worldwide, is therefore strategically located for a ship repair facility," the GSRJ chairman said. "Presently, all vessels trading in and around Jamaican waters have to accept expensive deviation courses if they have to be dry-docked or even repaired or serviced afloat. The dry docking space provided by our closest competitors in The Bahamas, in CuraÁao, Jacksonville or Houston is expensive and scarce."
The dockyard now employs around 20, but the majority of the technical experts are foreigners, "as the ship repair industry is entirely new to Jamaica and, therefore, skilled workers with international certification and practical experience are not available in Jamaica," Harren said.
The company plans to employ around 150 persons directly over time.
To address the skills deficit, GSRJ has partnered with the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) on training and launched a dual-apprenticeship programme in which the first 10 welders have been recruited as trainees. It is also recruiting another five to 10 trainees in the ship engine repair division for two- to three-year apprenticeships, starting in October.
The company also leased a 5,500-square-foot warehouse in the Kingston Free Zone, which it turned into an engine repair and shipbuilding workshop.
"Our second German joint-venture partner [Kloska] had sent heavy machinery and equipment from Germany for engine repair and overhauling, as well as for welding, drilling, etc," said Harren. "The trainees are spending half of their time in the workshop or on board the vessels, and half of their time at an apprenticeship workshop located at the CMI."
Eventually, the ship repair yard will be located at Harbour Head, where the company's Jamaican partners already operate a boatyard for pleasure crafts.
GSRJ services all vessels, including tankers, container, cargo ships, tugboats, naval and small pleasure vessels, but right now the demand is mainly coming from container vessels, especially the feeder vessels distributing cargo within the region, Harren said.
"Services now include all overhauling and repair works for deck and engine equipment which can be performed while the ship is in the water. Once the ship repair dock yard in Kingston is established, we will additionally offer all dry docking services," he said.