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Jamaica Plans to Become a Port of Reference

Jamaica Plans to Become a Port of Reference

Posted by Shanelle Weir on January 06, 2015

The Jamaican capital of Kingston is almost exactly equidistant from Miami, the final destination for over half of Latin America’s exports, and the Panama Canal, the main connection route between the two largest oceans on Earth, and through which travels 3% of all global maritime trade.

It’s a privileged location which the island has been making the most of since the 17th century, when Port Royal became the most important English port in the Western hemisphere. And once the Logistics Hub Initiative is completed, the port will be firmly back on the international trade map.

The plan includes improving and expanding port services, a dry dock (to repair and maintain the ships), a logistics center, a new air freight facility (along with expanding the current ones),  along with warehouses, storage and light manufacturing facilities in  Special Economic Zones. All of which will be connected via roads and railway lines.

“My vision is that we can construct a new Jamaican economy upon a platform of this Jamaica Logistics Hub Initiative,” described Minister for Investment, Industry and Trade, Anthony Hylton when he launched the initiative at the beginning of the year,

Progressive “ecosystem”

According to Hylton, this large logistics center will be an “ecosystem,” home to local and international businesses and generating positive results that will be felt by the rest of the Jamaican economy.

Apart from its key location, Jamaica has other advantages to capitalize on with this initiative, such as its naturally deep water (suitable for deep-draft navigation) and a highly-educated, English-speaking labor force.

The LHI has already managed to win over the hearts and minds of public and private entities to inject the necessary large sums of for upgraded ports, airports and other infrastructure. If the country manages to connect this logistical capacity with the development of productive activities, the initiative has the potential to generate unprecedented growth in the island.

Well-managed local businesses should prepare to make the most  of the opportunities that this initiative will provide," said Donovan Wignal, President of the MSME Alliance, the union for small and medium businesses  in Jamaica.

A poker game

The initiative also will also create opportunities for young people who are studying at Jamaican universities. Until now, many of them migrate after finishing their studies, precisely because of the lack of job openings.

"I hope that my degree will help me to be hired for some of the jobs which will be created once the  (Logistics) operation center opens," says Carlisle Moxam, a final year student in  Chain Management and Supply Office in the Caribbean Maritime at the Institute of Kingston. "I want to improve my skills and future prospects."

Obviously, Jamaicans are not the only ones working to exploit this "sea" of possibilities. Countries like Cuba or the Bahamas have also entered the race, all with an eye focused on examples such as Panama and Singapore, where the logistics business represents 7 and 8% of GDP respectively.

"It's a poker game," says Wignal. "And we have to play well."

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