Speaking Notes for

Hon. L. Michael Henry CD, MP

Minister of Transport and Works, Jamaica

On the occasion of the

 

Official Opening of JAMAICAN 2010

The Ritz Carlton Hotel, Montego Bay

Monday, June 28, 2010

 

SALUTATIONS:

It is one of the most fulfilling moments for me to date since taking responsibility for the Transport and Works Ministry. This is because I have led a major effort to broaden Jamaica’s horizon within the global aviation and maritime industries, and today represents a big day in Jamaica’s aviation history.

I have travelled far and wide in search of the sort of possibilities that have been realised through our hosting this conference right here in Jamaica. My journey has taken me to many places, including to the Far East and Europe.

This drive has been spearheaded by the Government of Jamaica out of recognition that for us to really succeed as a country, it will take innovation and broad thinking outside the box to bring us the cutting-edge competitive advantages which we need on the global landscape. We are indeed intent on catching up with the rest of the world and hopefully, getting somewhat ahead.

Jamaica’s extremely favourable position geographically, in respect of the Equator and the east-west and north-south distribution of airline services worldwide, offers us an opportunity to make bold advances to the really great potential out there for this small country.. That I have long recognised, and have brought to my ministerial portfolio.

Today we are here to formally kick-start this very important global event, which stands to benefit all the roughly 40 states which are in attendance.  The ICAO Conference for Air Service Negotiations (ICAN, or JAMAICAN, as we prefer to label it), is a welcome opportunity for the realisation of air service negotiations, something upon which success in the global aviation industry is critically dependent.

This is so much so that the hosting of this major international event in Jamaica is by no means a coincidence, but was achieved through a highly focussed and determined effort to significantly raise Jamaica’s air services profile globally.

The three-year-old conference, which brings together ICAO member states to sign bilateral and regional air services agreements, was set up to provide member states with a central meeting place to conduct bilateral air services negotiations. In some instances, the states have also used the conference to conduct consultations with their air services partners.

The conference is geared to be rotated among the eight ICAO Regions, and it is noteworthy that it was first held in the United Arab Emirates, then in Turkey, a clear reflection of the worldwide reach of this event that is now being hosted right here in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Turkey, for example, got the opportunity to host the conference in keeping with the rapid growth of the country’s civil aviation industry. This speaks well of how the event got to Jamaica this year.

At last year’s conference in Istanbul,

Ø  Approximately 250 participants from 49 different countries, including Jamaica, participated.

Ø  Turkey conducted bilateral air services talks and negotiations with 34 different countries, including Jamaica,Singapore, Fiji Islands, Austria, France, Ghana, and Switzerland.

Ø  Following the negotiations, Turkey signed seven bilateral air services agreements with:

ü  Chad

ü  Fiji Islands

ü  Ghana

ü  Rwanda

ü  Zambia

ü  Uganda

ü  The Dominican Republic

Out of that conference, Turkey increased its air services agreements from 97 to 104. Those are great numbers which I am sure all the participants and the ICAO member states being represented here are motivated by.

The current agreements were also updated in line with new requirements, while new destination points were determined, and other logistical changes made at ICAN 2009.

Overall, approximately 200 bilateral air services negotiations were conducted between states at that conference, and over 50 agreements were signed during the negotiations.

We look forward to a similarly active level of negotiation and concomitant success in respect of the signing of air services agreements among the ICAO member states.

The Benefits of ICAN

The benefits to be derived from attending the conference are many, and these are very significant. They include the following:

  • The promotion of efficiency/cost saving in the aviation sector because each country in attendance will conduct a series of negotiations at one facility, instead of travelling to different countries to have these discussions individually.
  • Providing one venue to facilitate negotiations with many countries reduces the travel cost of each state.
  • The strengthening of relationships with other states
  • The establishment of new partnerships within the global aviation industry.

The official 2030 Vision for Jamaica’s air transport sector is to have a thriving industry with Jamaica as an alternative to Miami International as a Regional Hub for cargo and passenger traffic. However, I personally have dreams and aspirations of actually replacing Miami in that regard. So look out for Jamaica.

Achieving this lofty goal will require meeting a number of strategic objectives, including:

Jamaica, with its very favourable geographical location, is well positioned to capitalise on the air traffic flows among the continents for passenger movement. Further, the shipping lanes converge on Jamaica when traversing the world’s most strategic waterway for trade, the Panama Canal. With the container port in Kingston being one of three on the eastern seaboard of the Americas that can handle mega container ships, Jamaica is ideally suited to become a multi-modal trans-shipment centre for cargo. The possibility for development of long-range passenger and cargo operations through a Jamaican hub airport is considered to have significant potential for the economy of Jamaica.

With the existing airports limited by terrain from having 10,000-foot runways, the need to develop Vernamfield to serve the long-term air cargo transport needs of Jamaica has moved from the conceptual stage to the point where a private/public venture partnership has been established to plan and execute the development.

The above strategies are already unfolding and will be supported by three important factors:

  • The airport factor, where airports have to establish a reputation for operating efficiency, as well as in respect of the security of passenger bags;
  • The regulatory factor, where the regulator must ensure compliance with ICAO safety standards while facilitating industry growth and performance;
  • The country factor, where the country must provide an atmosphere of security and comfort while offering a wide range of attractions and activities to engage the most discriminating palates in the tourist and business markets in an aesthetically-pleasing atmosphere

While the first two factors are well on the way to maturity in Jamaica, the country factor still needs greater emphasis by way of a significant public/private sector thrust that engages all of civil society.

Very important to us in going forward is this conference, where:

  • Jamaica is hosting approximately 40 countries.
  • Jamaica intends to secure as many new air bilateral services agreements as possible.
  • Jamaica will hold discussions with all the countries that wish to have talks. Such talks are scheduled with over 30 countries, with a view of updating current agreements and brokering new ones.
  • Very importantly from another national standpoint, the conference is endorsed by the Jamaica Tourist Board, so it’s ‘One Love’ among us as a happy family in Montego Bay for the conference, and please do extol our warm hospitality on your return home to your respective country.

Among the contemporary global aviation challenges today is to liberalise the sector worldwide, giving individual states the opportunity to legitimately establish direct air linkages to all other states. But with all the negotiations that it will take to eventually get there, if that is at all attainable, it is certainly a grand opportunity for ICAO member states to press along through ICAN, to get much more inter-connectivity worldwide, in the aviation industry.

Jamaica is focussed and committed to sharing in the global development in this regard, and also the extensive benefits to be derived from it. In that vein, I am proud to be part of today’s official opening of JAMAICAN 2010, and I look forward to an exciting and rewarding week here in Montego Bay.

Thank you.