Written by: Chris Patterson
The Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce (MIIC) is placing greater emphasis on digital transformation as a key tool to improve the ease of doing business as the country solidifies its position as the logistics destination of choice.
Minister of State in the Ministry, Dr. the Hon. Norman Dunn, said this is being done through initiatives such as the National Business Portal, the Jamaica Single Window for Trade (JSWIFT) and the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) platforms, as well as the Jamaica Trade Information Portal.
He was addressing the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) Industry Conference, at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, on September 29.
The two-day conference is being held under the theme ‘End to End Logistics: Opportunities in an era of uncertainty’.
“At the same time, we are also positioning ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities created by the expansion of the Panama Canal, which has opened avenues for new and innovative commercial ventures with Jamaica,” the State Minister said.
“Through the efforts of our agencies, JAMPRO (Jamaica Promotions Corporation) and the JSEZA (Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority), as well as other agents of government, we are strategically positioning Jamaica to be a major player in the international logistics global supply chain, to join the giants in the industry – Rotterdam, Dubai, and Singapore,” he added.
The State Minister noted that Jamaica is ranked sixth globally by the World Bank for ease of starting a business.
“Along with this expansion of the Panama Canal comes not only an increased demand for logistics support, [but] we are also looking to take advantage of what should be an increased need for bunkering or fuel supply, as well as for more industry workers, such as marine pilots, ship repair technicians, electro-technical officers, stevedores, cargo brokers and logisticians,” Dr. Dunn said.
He argued that the country’s manufacturers, distributors, and skills-building institutions must position and equip themselves to benefit from these economic opportunities.
Dr. Dunn said the stories of highly profitable logistics companies, such as UPS, FedEx and J B Hunt, show that success in this industry, as with others, requires constant readjustments to finesse procedures in line with changing demands.
“For instance, lessons learned from the disruptions to the global supply chain are that the supply chain has to be shortened to avoid excessive shipping and freighting rates, space shortages and long wait times. This presents yet another opportunity for us, as a near-shore destination, especially to the North American market where we share a similar time zone and language,” he said.
Dr. Dunn reiterated the Government’s commitment to embracing the current uncertainties to ensure that Jamaicans are equipped to benefit from the opportunities presented in this new era.
“We are expanding our digital footprint across the island, upskilling our workforce with the associated skills through our National Coding in Schools Programme, and digitalising across government service touchpoints to ensure that we participate fully in the digital economy, where end to end is made easy and results in a thriving economy,” he said.
The State Minister added that the Ministry looks forward to continuing the engagement with the stakeholders in Logistics, to ensure that the right climate is created to grow and sustain businesses.
He congratulated the leadership of the CMU for the sterling work they have been undertaking to prepare young people from Jamaica, and further afield, for the Logistics and related industries.
President, CMU, Professor Andrew Spencer, said the CMU, which is the largest maritime and training institution in the region, has trained thousands of persons since it was founded in 1980.
He said the institution will continue reaching out to industry partners as part of efforts to create opportunities and solutions for challenges that are being faced within the sector, as well as to recertify their members for the new normal.