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Port of Kingston in midst of $100 million expansion
The San Juan Star / November 22, 2004

By Larry Luxner

The Jamaican government will soon complete Phase IV of an ambitious expansion program aimed at preserving Kingston's role as the oldest and one of the largest transshipment hubs in the Caribbean.

Ian Blair, senior vice-president of operations and development at the Port Authority of Jamaica, said the Kingston Container Terminal (KCT) now handles 1.2 million TEUs a year. The $100 million expansion will increase that by 25% to around 1.5 million and should be finished within the next six to eight months. It includes four new cranes manufactured by China's ZPNC, and 502 meters of additional berth, bringing the total to 13 cranes and 1,800 meters of berth.

The Export-Import Bank of China is financing Jamaica's $25 million purchase of the cranes, while the Bank of Nova Scotia is financing the civil works to the tune of $55-60 million.

"We think we provide a good service to our current customers," Blair said in a phone interview from Kingston. "As long as we continue to serve those customers and provide adequate capacity to keep their business growing, we feel we'll be a force to reckon with, no matter who else comes on the street."

Blair noted that "we were the first transshipment port in the region, having operated our port for nearly 25 years." He said that transshipment now accounts for 92% of Kingston's container traffic, which he said has grown by an average 8% a year over the last decade, though 2004 growth will probably exceed 15%.

The current expansion, dubbed KCT-4, comes on the heels of two previous expansions — KCT-2 and KCT-3 — that cost around $100 million apiece. He said the Kingston Container Terminal moves an average 28 containers per hour, and that the port is highly mechanized.

"Labor is not a big part of this in today's world, where ships are containerized," he said. "Years ago, we had 17 stevedores per gang. Now we have five or six."

Kingston's largest customers are Zim Israel Navigation Co. Ltd., with 39% of the port's total volume, followed by the New Caribbean Service consortium, with a 24% share, and CMA-CGM Group, with 15%.

Blair said that he's not terribly worried about competition from either Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. In the case of Ponce's megaport, nothing has been built yet, while the CSX World Terminals project in Caucedo offers little serious competition with Kingston in terms of volume.

"The Dominican Republic is a very small port in relation to us. We handle maybe three times cargo as much as they do," he said, adding that "Kingston has been a traditional transshipment hub, and we have a very good clientele." - END -

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