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Goat Islands could make Jamaica a stronger shipping destination

Published:Friday | September 12, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton,Senior Staff Reporter

THE CREATION of a new port at Goat Island would not cannibalise the operations at the Kingston Container Terminal (KCT), Gordon Shirley, head of the Port Authority of Jamaica has said.

Shirley's comments, which were made during Wednesday's sitting of the Public Adminis-tration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament, which among other things quizzed him about a 62 per cent decline in business at the PAJ last year.

China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) is seeking to develop a transhipment port at Goat Islands, which it wants to connect to the mainland in Old Harbour, St Catherine by a causeway. There has been persistent opposition to the project from environmentalists, and committee members Audley Shaw and Dr Andrew Wheatley questioned whether its existence would not spell doom for the KCT.

Shirley, however, said both the KCT and the Goat Islands project would complement each other and enhance Jamaica's position as a transhipment hub.

"We view the CHEC project as important. We view it as more than a transhipment zone. The CHEC development in the Portland Bight area involves the development of more than 6,000 acres of land on the mainland on the industrial complex with very different kinds of activities than is anticipated for those in the immediate vicinity of the Kingston Container Terminal, which would by and large be light assembly and packaging," Shirley said.

The PAJ head further said the greater Kingston environment will "remain competitive because of the strategic location that we have, particularly if we are able to dredge".

"There are some who would see the operations in the southern part of Jamaica as being a single terminal kind of operation. The Port Authority views the southern Jamaica opportunity as one that can sustain multiple terminals in a competitive way, each with their own niche without them cutting each other's throat.

Meanwhile, responding to Shaw on the reason for the downturn in business, Shirley said "the 62 per cent is relative to the period when global trade was at its peak".

"What we have seen, for example, this year, is an upward trend in transhipment volume," Shirley said.

He added that many of the terminals in the region saw a similar fall-off in business, which he said is in part due to a global trend and also a "dramatic impact in Venezuela where volumes fell quite substantially".