It is perhaps a noteworthy bit of irony that we are surrounded by the sea, yet we are seemingly unaware of the vast potential this resource holds in terms of placing us on a platform for economic and social development.

As we celebrate yet another Maritime Awareness Week, I think that the time is appropriate for me to focus on what I would like to refer to as a paradigm shift in how we view maritime matters in Jamaica. Interestingly, I note the week is being observed under the theme, “2010: Year of the Seafarer”, and this is precisely where my thoughts lie!

Since assuming the office as Minister of Transport and Works, I have spoken extensively on the significant role that the maritime sector plays at both the micro and macro levels of our nation’s existence. In excess of 20 tonnes of our imported goods arrive here by sea; and we are speaking here about the proverbial ‘pin to an anchor’. Expand that to take in allied services – the persons to work on these vessels, those who work in the entities dealing with regulations, those who work at the ports, those who work with the training of persons in the industry; look at all these linkages and one begins to see that this multi-billion dollar sector cannot be ignored.

It is against this background that I wish to laud the efforts of our maritime Agencies, namely the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) and the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ) for the sterling work they have been doing in championing the maritime cause. In the case of the CMI, they are currently on a drive to expand their capacity in order to meet the demands for a steady supply of a skilled workforce to its global shipping partners. This thrust dovetails beautifully into facilitating this Ministry’s thrust of a multi-modal, integrated transportation network as we seek to position Jamaica as the transportation hub of the Caribbean.

In the case of the PAJ, it is involved in various projects designed to improve the sector; among them, the development of a new cruise pier and related facilities in Falmouth, Trelawny. These facilities, on completion, will be able to host the new Genesis Class generation of mega vessels recently introduced into the cruise industry by Royal Caribbean Cruises International. 

For its part, the MAJ continues to promote the Jamaica Ship Registry; this being a critical element in galvanizing efforts to develop Jamaica as a shipping centre. To this end, activities of the offices in Germany and Singapore have been regionalized with a view to widening the target market in order to obtain new business as well as to embrace vessels already in operation.

I am very confident that this new positive direction of the maritime sector will place our Jamaican seafarers in an advantageous position to access the various opportunities being created; this can only redound to the benefit of all Jamaicans ultimately.

Hon. L. Michael Henry CD, MP 
Minister of Transport and Works