Sat | Oct 24, 2020

Port of Kingston retains ranking amid pandemic

Published:Wednesday | September 23, 2020 | 12:11 AMSteven Jackson/Senior Business Reporter

Port container volumes in Kingston have fallen during the pandemic.

The contraction still resulted in Kingston ports outperforming more than half of the other city ports in the Americas, regional shipping data shows.

Cargo shipments into Kingston dipped 12 per cent year over year when measured in tonnages, while export tonnages fell 7.0 per cent between January and August, based on data released to the Financial Gleaner by the Port Authority of Jamaica, PAJ.

However, the change narrows to a decline of 2.7 per cent when shipments are measured in container volumes rather than tonnage.

Meanwhile, other port data produced by regional UN agency ECLAC shows that Kingston still ranks as eighth largest in the region among 47 city ports. The best-performing port in the review period was San Marta in Colombia, up 32 per cent in container movements, while the worst performer was Buenaventura, also in Colombia, down 38 per cent.

The ports in Kingston are comprised of Kingston Container Terminal Limited, which is operated by Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited, KFTL; and Kingston Wharves Limited, KWL. Together they handled over 850,000 containers over the first half of the year.

The Port Authority expects volumes to improve over the rest of the year.

“At KFTL, volumes have increased steadily since the beginning of the third quarter. Kingston Wharves Limited displayed a similar pattern with the low point recorded in June 2020 and a boost in volumes afterwards,” the agency said in response to Financial Gleaner queries.

While much of the economy went dormant during the early period of the pandemic, ports remained open because they are viewed as an essential service, required to facilitate international trade and the transport of goods.

“Ports utilised viable shipping connections and alternatives to meet consumer demand,” said the PAJ.

“As a consequence of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the second quarter results are likely to be the lowest point in terms of volumes handled at the ports. However, as countries relax restrictions and economies begin to recover, volumes are expected to improve for the remainder of the year due to an increase in the demand and consumption of goods,” the port regulator said.

French-owned Kingston Freeport operates the Kingston Container Terminal under concession from the Port Authority. KWL is a publicly traded company, whose leading shareholder is food and logistics conglomerate Jamaica Producers Group. Kingston Wharves specialises in motor vehicle imports, but also handles other cargo.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com