Further improvements are coming to the operations at the Bridgetown Port, as the Barbados Port Inc. (BPI) seeks to transform it into the “most recognisable” port in this part of the region.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, made the disclosure, as he delivered the feature address at a recent ceremony to officially open the BPI’s new administration building, “Cube Blue”.
Mr. Humphrey emphasised the need to make the port more efficient, as he noted with concern the island’s ranking at 132 on the World Bank’s Trade Across Borders index. According to him, this was not “good enough” for the port, one of the island’s hubs for economic activity.
The index, according to www.doingbusiness.org, measures the time and cost (excluding tariffs) associated with three sets of procedures:documentary compliance, border compliance and domestic transport, within the overall process of exporting or importing a shipment of goods.
It was against this background the Minister said Government and the BPI have been working to make it easier to conduct business there, and highlighted some of the successes to date.
“As of mid-September 2020, dwell time [for containers] was reduced from 8 or 9 days to three days. Truck turnaround time, which previously hovered at about 45 minutes, is now down to 30 minutes.”
Minister Humphrey continued: “And for the first time in the history of the port, there is an established protocol on joint cargo inspections by the Ministry of Commerce, Port Health, Plant Quarantine, and Customs agencies, which further enhance the delivery of times and cargo to customers.”
He also expressed confidence in the implementation of the Maritime Single Window, which manages the flow of information between the ship data providers, and the relevant authorities at the port of call. According to the Maritime Affairs Minister, this would significantly reduce the time spent in the port and aid in the reduction of pollution from vessels.
Other plans on the cards include: the setting of a uniform starting time for operations across the board; the construction of a haul-out facility; and the expansion of the shallow draughts.
Mr. Humphrey also spoke to increasing competitiveness in the area of trading of ocean cargo, noting authorities were working to position the island as the hub for the eastern and southern Caribbean.
He said although the island has and would continue to benefit from additional traffic within the Caribbean basin resulting from the recent expansion of the Panama Canal, the focus must be on growing market space, rather than tapping into existing ones.
“To this end, Prime Minister Mottley has already opened discussions with a number of African and South American countries, along with several cargo and vessel operators, to pursue the development of new trade lanes, namely with West Africa…namely, Kenya and Ghana, and South American countries such as Suriname, Brazil and Guyana,” he stated.
He highlighted the 2019 signing of the Memoranda of Understanding between Barbados and Ghana. The Tema-Bridgetown Agreement focuses on trade, originating from Ghana, transiting through Barbados on to destination ports within the Caribbean and Latin America.
“The intended scope of the sister port agreement is to facilitate the exchange of commercial, technological and operational information in seeking to improve the visibility, trade and relationship between the two ports for the mutual benefit of Tema and Bridgetown,” he explained, adding similar discussions were being had with Kenya.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, who officially opened “Cube Blue” with Sir Roy Trotman on Friday, also spoke briefly to the vision of transforming the Bridgetown Port. She stated: “I want to signal that it’s this Government’s intention to literally work with all, from the workers, to the management, to the Board, to the stakeholders, to the security persons to ensure the Bridgetown Port becomes the port that is most recognised in the eastern and southern Caribbean.”