By Douglas McIntosh
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Anthony Hylton, says the government’s plan to establish Jamaica as a global transshipment and logistics hub represents an investment opportunity of some US$7-8 billion, spanning a five to ten-year period.
The proposal entails implementation of a series of developments, including: dredging of the Kingston Harbour; port facility expansion works at Fort Augusta and Gordon Cay, St Catherine; and establishment of the Caymanas Economic Zone (CEZ), also in St Catherine; a transshipment commodity port facility near Yallahs, St Thomas; and a dry dock facility at Jackson Bay, and air cargo and passenger facility at Vernamfield, both in Clarendon.
The pursuit of these developments comes against the background of what Hylton said is Jamaica’s strategic positioning at the centre of an 800 million-person market in the Western Hemisphere, inclusive of the United States, deemed the world’s largest and strongest market.
Outlining details of the projects during his presentation in the 2012/13 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Hylton said the work on the CEZ, for which 1,500 acres of prime real estate have been earmarked, will see the initial phase being developed on 200 acres, to “systematically” lay out information and communication technology (ICT), business, and light industry parks.
Noting that the CEZ will link the business districts of Kingston, Spanish Town and Portmore, Hylton said the development will enable Jamaica to “elevate its role” in the global supply chain by facilitating the movement of cargo throughout the hemisphere. Additionally, it will serve as a strategic gateway for cargo destined for the North, Central and South American markets, “thus taking advantage of a network of trade agreements between Jamaica/CARICOM and these markets."
The minister said the CEZ will complement the Kingston Harbour dredging project, which will act as a “catalyst” for the entire transshipment and logistics hub development.
Regarding the port facilities slated for Yallahs, Hylton said this project is being tailored to “take advantage” of what is regarded as, possibly, the deepest port in the Western Hemisphere, at some 51 metres. He said when completed, the port will facilitate the storage of a range of commodities, including, but not exclusive to: crude oil, natural gas, iron ore, petroleum products, bio-diesel, and pharmaceuticals.
“The port will be developed by the private sector, comprising local and foreign interests, and is being facilitated by the government, particularly in the marketing/promotion of the project, given the strategic impact on Jamaica’s energy security and consequent economic growth and development,” the minister said.
Hylton told the Lower House that a “tremendous amount of work” has gone into the development of the Vernamfield air cargo and passenger facility, while acknowledging the efforts of former transport and works minister, under the previous administration, Michael Henry. He added that the proposed establishment of an aerospace training institute by private interests, “underscores the possibilities for this development."
On the Fort Augusta and Gordon Cay port facility expansion, Hylton contended that growth in the shipping industry necessitates the provision of additional space to facilitate anticipated increases in the volume of activities. Additionally, he said the dry dock at Jackson Bay has emerged as a “compelling proposition,” in light of developments around the Panama Canal, and local port facilities.
Hylton said early discussions with potential investors in the logistics hub cluster, have indicated “strong interest” from a “wide community” with operating experience in the industry.
“My ministry is convinced that with timely response and fixity of purpose, these projects, when implemented, will drive Jamaica’s growth prospects in the short term, and well into the future,” he said.