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Tread cautiously on logistics hub, Gov't warned

Published:Sunday | February 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A section of the Goat Islands.-FILE

Environmental challenges for whichever site is chosen

With the Government seemingly determined to give the green light for the establishment of a harbour and port facilities on Goat Islands, St Catherine, an independent study has warned of possible dire economic consequences.

However, the study also concludes that the Goat Islands and Maccary Bay are the best sites in Jamaica for a logistics hub, but there are major environmental concerns whichever site is chosen.

The study of possible sites for the logistics hub was done by four master of engineering students from the Technical University of Delft in Holland with instructions and guidance from the Jamaican coastal engineering company, Smith Warner International.

Using five criteria, the group examined Little Bay in Westmoreland; Maccary Bay, Clarendon; Jackson Bay, Clarendon; and the Goat Islands.

According to the group, Little Bay has the lowest cost of development, but scores poorly on connectivity and proximity to main urban centres. "It is, therefore, good for a port but not good for a logistics hub," said the group.

Maccary Bay was seen as a good logistics hub candidate as it is close to a potential major airport, and is relatively close to main urban areas.

"It also has potential for future expansion. The required long approach channel is, however, a problem. This has both environmental and economic consequences for construction and operation, unless the dredged material can be reused," concluded the report.

According to the group, Jackson Bay would require the highest capital for development; the large breakwaters needed for sheltering are the major cost contributor. "This site would be more suitable for a smaller port development," concluded the group.

Goat Islands scores best

The group said the Goat Islands scores best for proximity to main urban areas and for connectivity to inland transportation.

"These are both essential to maximising efficiencies of the logistics hub and extracting the highest socio-economic benefits.

"With the right configuration, no large breakwaters would be required and direct impacts on the fish sanctuary and wetlands could be reduced."

However, the group warned that a logistics hub in the area has the potential to do the most damage to the natural environment, both during construction and operation.

While noting that the report was not intended to promote or shoot down any of the proposed sites, the group argued that there is a need for more informed discussion on the proposal which has split support.

If Jamaica is to reap long-term benefits of a major development, the importance of conducting this kind of assessment must be appreciated.

Late last week, The Gleaner confirmed that Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies has received the framework agreement which will be used to determine if China Harbour Engineering Company will be given the green light to use the Goat Islands.

Cabinet is expected to consider the agreement by the end of February.