Fri | Jun 5, 2020

Shipping – A resilient industry

Published:Tuesday | March 31, 2020 | 12:12 AM
The Port of Kingston is open for business.
The Port of Kingston is open for business.

FOR CENTURIES, the world’s shipping industry has proven its resilience in the face of pandemics, wars, hurricanes and earthquakes. Through all those disasters, the maritime sector has been the lifeline for citizens of the world – providing food, medicine and other vital cargo for the preservation of life and the maintenance of social order.


In the current coronavirus-19 pandemic, Jamaica’s shipping industry is again leading by example, as seen in the measures adopted by the Shipping Association of Jamaica and its members as they continue to manage the provision of services immediately following the Government promulgating the Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) Order 2020.


Companies are being asked to make daily adjustments in support of the national effort in fighting COVID-19, and KWL recently announced additional critical steps in line with government protocols as follows:

- Effective Thursday, March 26, 2020: All less-than-container Load (LCL) customers (both commercial and personal) conducting business with KWL are to have an appointment.

- Customers are not to attend KWL facilities without an appointment, and freight forwarders and agents are being asked to make appointments for their customers. Appointments are to be made by 2 p.m. the day prior of the delivery date, and agents will receive a confirmation within an hour of the submission of their requests.

- Initially, appointments will be made by email – LCL commercial,, and personal effects,

- At a later date, appointments are to be made via the Client Engagement Centre Portal that is accessible via the Kingston Wharves website, similar to how appointments are made for containers and motor vehicles.

- In accordance with government regulations, customers will be allowed in each KWL processing area in groups of 10. For Tinson Pen, the number is five persons.

- Customers over 75 years old and those in the island for less than 21 days (from March 18) will only be handled via the door-to-door delivery system to limit in-store interaction. Door-to-door inspections are also now solely by appointment.

KWL also advises that the following measures will be effective as of Monday, March 30, 2020:

- All commercial transactions are to be made electronically either by e-payment at; the KW mobile app, available at the Google Play Store; or by bank transfers and lodgements. Personal effects customers are also encouraged to utilise the electronic payment options. Contact for more information or assistance with any of our electronic methods.

- With any of the electronic options, the clients may go directly to the KWL warehouse, terminal or Tinson Pen to proceed with customs processing and delivery. There is no need to visit client services to validate or stamp document. Due to the rapidly evolving situation, KWL encourages customers to keep abreast of the updates.


Seaboard is also fulfilling its role as a vital supply chain partner while protecting the well-being of their staff, customers and valued partners. The below measures have been instituted at the Seaboard Jamaica offices and warehouse:

- Sanitisers are placed at the entrance – customers are asked to sanitise upon entry and before handing documents to the processing clerk.

- Opening hours have been revised to reduce the exposure and risk – the new opening hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3 a.m.

- No more than 10 customers are to be present in the processing areas.

- All departments are on rotating teams: one team in the office and one working from home. This is to ensure business continuity in the event of contamination/exposure at the office.

The company also encourage customers to utilise electronic payment methods; bank transfer, direct deposit, and electronic credit card authorisation.


The SAJ has also enacted measures in the fight against COVID-19 that include:

- Instituting a work-from-home policy for administrative staff who are engaged in non-essential tasks.

- For those persons who must come into the office to complete tasks that cannot be done remotely, limiting the number of days in which they have to attend the office.

These policies also allow the staggering of the days of work for each employee. For those employees who are home, managers and other team members check in on each other regularly so that all can help to maintain a chain of support for each other.

By minimising the number of persons actively engaged in the office, the industry is better able to facilitate social distancing. Even while at work, contact among teams is facilitated mainly by telephone and only when necessary are team members brought together, but maintaining social distancing as much as possible.

Through these initiatives, the SAJ and its members are able to continue to be of service to the community, while trying to do their part to minimise the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

Formed in 1939, the SAJ is registered under the Trade Union Act of Jamaica and is a service provider to the ports, as well as a member-based organisation of terminal operators, stevedoring contractors and shipping agents, the latter of which are the marketing and logistics representatives of shipping lines in Jamaica.


At the regional level, the SAJ has been giving full support to the CSA, of which the SAJ is a founding and council member, in helping to prepare the region for an event of the type we are now experiencing. At the CSA’s annual general meetings and meetings of its executive council, disaster preparation and resilience planning have been recurring topics in light of the crucial role of shipping in protection, recovery, and rebuilding when the worst occurs through acts of man or nature.

At the Caribbean Shipping Executives’ Conference (CSEC) in May 2016, industry leaders discussed and shared ideas on disaster management during a presentation on that topic by Rick Murrell of Tropical Shipping. The types of disaster to which the Caribbean is most susceptible were identified as hurricane; tsunami/earthquake; pollution/water supply; pandemic; terrorism; and cyberattack. In that discussion, participants agreed that the most important resource to ensure continuity of business are the employees and their families.

Collective commitment to collective assistance was also identified as a key component of disaster resilience and, in this regard, the SAJ’s coordinating role for the local shipping industry is very evident.


Another strength of the shipping industry that is helping it to overcome the present challenges is the digital transformation of supply chain logistics that was one of the topics discussed at the annual general meeting of the CSA in October 2019. The presentation on the topic was delivered by the Florida Blockchain Foundation and it showed that the region’s maritime sector is on the right path in creating new business models, using technology to create efficiencies and business intelligence.

The application of new technologies facilitates supply chain visibility, which entails tracking an asset from source to destination via data that all stakeholders can access. In the digital environment, all stakeholders collaborate and share the necessary data that drives global trade. This new model streamlines the supply chain and improves trade through container tracking, with smart technologies like the Internet of things. The speedy sharing of information between companies fuels growth with personalised, customer-focused processes that increases cycle times and lowers costs.

The CSA is the voice of the Caribbean shipping industry and was established in 1971 to facilitate the development of an efficient, viable Caribbean shipping industry. The conferences hosted by the CSA provide a forum in which matters relevant to the growth and development of Caribbean shipping are discussed.