Mon | Feb 19, 2018

My pleasure to have served the shipping industry

Published:Tuesday | January 2, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Group CEO of the SAJ Trevor Riley, outgoing President of the SAJ Kim Clarke, President elect Denise Lyn Fatt and past President Roger Hinds.

My pleasure to have served the shipping industry

Serving as president of the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ) for the past five years has been an incredible privilege for me. I consider this association the cornerstone of the shipping industry of Jamaica, and so I undertook my responsibility with diligence, pride, and with my very best efforts to exemplify the strength of leadership demonstrated by many of those who led before me. Now, as I hand over the torch to the capable new leader, Denise Lyn Fatt, I wish to share some reflections on my time as president of your association.

My tenure has been marked by as many opportunities as it has been by challenges. These are challenges brought about by industry transformation, and were not just specific to the SAJ. We survived the winds of change because we have long committed ourselves never to rest on past accomplishments, but continuously to seek ways to improve on our representation of our members at the highest levels, and to lobby for legislative and policy changes which will ultimately redound to their benefit and to national development.

The last three years in particularly have represented a period of rapid-fire change. Among the significant changes were the opening of the new locks on the Panama Canal and the privatisation of the Kingston Container Terminal, both of which have considerable capacity to change the environment in which shipping operates in Jamaica and the hemisphere.

With these changes in the local and international shipping landscape, the SAJ has continued to reposition itself to navigate the adversities and seek out emerging opportunities wherever they can be found. Beyond the provision of labour, the SAJ sought to support the industry with programmes and solutions that adequately equipped them to plan for and handle these changes.

 

INCREASED EFFICIENCY

 

The SAJ's advocacy for a Port Community System, which was first suggested as long ago as 2002 under the leadership of past president Grantley Stephenson and later championed by past president Roger Hinds, finally gained the support of the Government, which has commenced the process of implementation. It is the Association's view that an improvement in our profile as a centre of logistics cannot succeed with the largely manual and unconnected electronic systems in the industry.

Additionally, we led intensive lobbying efforts to ensure that amendments to the Customs Act were structured in a manner that engenders increased efficiency and sustainability of the sector. That work continues, and we serve on several committees and working groups to ensure that the voices of our members are heard in the halls of power. The Association will not rest until we are satisfied that the new Customs Act is fit for the purpose of moving Jamaica into the 21st Century and into the league of most advanced nations supporting, and therefore benefiting from, the global supply chain.

We were pleased to state our support of the law that would establish Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under Jamaica's Global Logistics Hub Initiative. The SEZ Act was passed in Parliament on December 2, 2015, repealing the Jamaica Export Free Zones Act and providing for the development, regulation, construction, supervision, management, and control of Special Economic Zones in Jamaica. We have lobbied further to lend our support to the creation of the SEZ Regulations, necessary for the implementation of the main Act.

We anticipated the challenges that the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) requirement for container weight verification may have had on our members, on the industry, and indeed on the entire exporter community, and thus carried out a comprehensive sensitisation campaign. We are gratified that our efforts were successful in reducing the potential for dislocation among our stakeholders.

Training of port workers, which remains central to our association, continued with innovative methods necessary to meet the demands of the international shipping industry. The Association's Accredited Training Organization (ATO) status was renewed by the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) following an audit exercise. Accredited status lasts for four (4) years, and our latest renewal will continue to May 18, 2020, when we will again work assiduously to have it re-extended. The skill and competence of our stevedores are a recognised special ingredient in the competitiveness of the local shipping industry. The SAJ's contribution to labour management and negotiation is a significant part of the fabric of the industrial relations climate, which has done so much to make our port attractive to investors and shipping lines, thereby enhancing the viability of the Port of Kingston; and by extension, Jamaica, as a maritime nation.

 

A MASTER PLAN

 

The SAJ has continued to provide leadership to the shipping industry in general, and specifically to the community of Newport West, which is base to a large proportion of the businesses invested in the industry. We have commissioned the development of a master plan for an industrial park in Newport West, and we are now in the process of a review of the draft by stakeholders.

With the continued support of all stakeholders, the SAJ has created for itself a creditable track record over the decades underpinned by innovation, efficiency, and responsiveness. As I bring the curtains down on my tenure as president of the SAJ, I wish to thank the membership and Managing Committee for the tremendous faith reposed in me these last five years. I thank the CEO and his team for their professionalism and support, and wish all members of the association good fortune in the future. I shall remain supportive of the new leadership of the SAJ, confident that our association remains in very good hands.

Immediate Past President,

Kim Clarke