The Logistics Hub: Implications for Western Jamaica

From left, Nathan Robb, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Fritz Pinnock, executive director, Caribbean Maritime Institute and Dr. Geneive Brown Metzger, Caribbean investment analyst/former Jamaican consul general, NY.

Scores of residents, business luminaries, and public and private sector stakeholders in the second city Montego Bay, Jamaica were engaged in a riveting exchange of ideas, research and thinking among panellists and presenters at the Logistics Hub symposium at the Wexford Hotel on Thursday May 8, 2014.

The Caribbean Maritime Institute and The University of the West Indies, Western Campus in association with The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce hosted a symposium to unearth new knowledge, promote discourse and increase awareness about the much talked about Logistics Hub initiative. The discussions were framed under the theme “The Logistics Hub: Implications for Western Jamaica” but they were geared towards providing a greater understanding about the total concept that encompasses the entire country.

This symposium comprised of a plenary session, a luncheon and three panel discussions to cover the various aspects of interest and relevance. Main themes punctuating the proceedings were the fact that the logistics hub is not a place but a development concept to drive productivity and efficiency and that development has no nationality. “Jamaica’s” logistics hub will therefore need the collaboration of the international community, foreign investment, and input from academia, environmentalists, the government and developers to be a success.

Dr. Geneive Brown Metzger, Caribbean trade and investment analyst based in New York and former Jamaican Consul General, chaired the opening panel, “Socio-economic Implications of the Logistics Hub.” The panelists included Sharon Fflokes Abrahams, minister of state in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce and Edmond Bartlett, opposition spokesperson on the respective portfolio.

THE GOAT ISLANDS: AN INTERNATIONAL GATEWAY PORT

Dr. Fritz Pinnock, executive director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute and main speaker for the plenary, believes that “this was an appropriate platform to promote positive discourse and increase awareness about how the logistics hub concept will work for the nation in a practical way; sharing in a comprehensive manner, how its development will affect residents in western Jamaica, their families, future plans and expectations and their livelihood.” Using this as an opportunity to explain in palatable terms, the concept of this new development, Pinnock compared Jamaica’s growth aspirations to those of Singapore and the famed London gateway. To make the London Gateway (which nears completion) a reality, the use of arable land and habits was inevitable.

The gateway is physically located in one of the most ecologically sensitive areas of England, and its construction involved the dredging of 60 miles of the River Thames, resulting in over 20 million cubic metres of dredged sand -; enough to accommodate 12000 Olympic size swimming pools. As a mitigating initiative, researchers, ecologists and environmentalists have embarked on a massive project to relocate tens of thousands of reptiles and wildlife to new sanctuaries. Fifty three hectres of land was identified for rehabilitation for various protected species. This is just one project to be undertaken to ensure that the 1.5 billion pound global gateway port and logistics park, which will create 12,000 new jobs, in Britain is built without resulting in adverse environment damage. This custom built deep sea gateway port, which allows England to reinvent themself, has an unrivalled location that will increase efficiency.

Similarly, Jamaica will need to undertake a massive reconstruction of road and sea networks to create interconnectivity between air, land and sea modes of transportation, while finding creative ways of preserving the environment. The development plans for the Goat Islands is similar to that of The London Gateway. It too is envisioned as an international gateway of economic trade, facilitated by Jamaica, because of its location. However, given that the Goat Islands is already located in a highly industrial environment, the environmental impact will be far less. Even so as a precautionary measure, Pinnock is recommending that we adopt Britain’s approach to sustainable development which embraces partnership.

COLLABORATION IS KEY

The luncheon featured a special presentation from Professor Gordon Shirley, CEO and president of the Port Authority of Jamaica. He presented the development plans for the concept, and explained that Western Jamaica plays an important role in this initiative as it is the core of our service industries, comprising of tourism and information communication technology sectors. He noted that plans are afoot to develop an integrated advanced port communication system to facilitate the level of commercial activities to be accommodated by this investment.

President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce, Nathan Robb, echoed the need for collaborative thinking among all stakeholders for the logistics growth strategy to work for all Jamaicans. In addition, the symposium was attended by distinguished governmental (ministerial) officials, renowned specialists in logistics, supply chain management and sustainable development, as well as members of academia, industry practitioners and consultants, researchers, policymakers and an impressive line-up of panellists from the hotel and tourism industries, environmental groups and commerce. These included Sharon Fflokes Abrahams, minister of state in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce and Edmond Bartlett, opposition spokesperson on the respective portfolio,.

The aim of the symposium was to offer an invaluable opportunity for interested individuals and groups to learn more about the myriad of issues relating to the development of a logistics hub in general and the implications for Western Jamaica in particular. It was a forum for discussion, collaboration and intellectual exchange for all participants.

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