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Caribbean on the cusp of unprecedented growth

Published:Tuesday | May 20, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Grantley Stephenson

"The Caribbean is on the cusp of unprecedented growth." That is the view expressed by Grantley Stephenson, president of the Caribbean Shipping Association (CSA), as he opened the 13th Annual Caribbean Shipping Executives Conference, in Miami, Florida, last Monday (May 14, 2014). The conference was hosted by the CSA in collaboration with PortMiami.

In addressing the more than 230 delegates attending the conference, Stephenson said, "In order for us to realise this promise, our efforts today must be underpinned by bold thinking and an unequivocal acknowledgement of the changing context within which we operate."

He added that, "While we continue to compete among ourselves in the region, we should also begin to grasp important lessons from developments - even within our own marketplace - and unite our efforts to offer even fiercer competition on a global stage."

Making reference to the recent approval of the P3 Alliance by the US Federal Maritime Commission, the CSA president said the move represents the intensification of both consolidation and competition.

"It is said that the creation of the alliance by Maersk, CMA-CGM and MSC is in response to the G6 Alliance of Mitsui OSK, NYK, OOCL, Hapag Lloyd, APL and Hyundai. Some experts have said the alliance is an attempt by the lines to manage the rapid growth of capacity consequent on the growth in the sizes of ships that are being deployed on the Asia/Europe and Atlantic routes," he added.

Stephenson said that the Caribbean faces "interesting changes" with respect to cargo and cruise. "Our region is certainly in for some interesting times with the entry of the new Sealand into the Caribbean service."

On the cruise side, he referred to statements made by non-cruise nations such as the United Arab Emirates that plan to develop into a greater cruise destination than the Caribbean, which now comprises the world's biggest ports of call. "We need to be aware of how we may continue to deepen our competitive advantage as a region," Stephenson said.

He noted that the Caribbean is still recovering from the global recession which ended four years ago. However, the economic outlook continues to be positive, with both the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund predicting growth in the region of 3 per cent for 2014.

The CSA president encouraged delegates to continue to use this recovery phase to make the necessary adjustments to take advantage of the opportunities that are to come - specifically the opening of the wider and deeper locks in the Panama Canal in 2015.

"We are moving into an era more greatly defined by modern technology. As operators of businesses in the maritime sector, we must continue to evolve along with the technology, in order to remain in business," Stephenson said.