MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, May 21, – St.Lucia along with other member countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are being urged to examine and explore a regional port strategy given the limited volumes being handled in some ports in the nine-member sub-regional grouping.
The study on maritime ports in the region, undertaken on behalf of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is also recommending a major overhaul in policies; significant increase in investments to fast-track modernization; more private sector leadership, and greater focus among the Bank’s Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) on improving efficiency.
“Investments should be made under prudent guidance and with an awareness of the regional developments. It would be a waste of public resources for all the OECS countries to invest in deep-sea facilities,” the study notes.
The CDB said that the proposals come against the background of varying degrees of efficiency and productivity among the 12 ports examined in the study.
The main aim of the study is to stimulate new perspectives on policies, practices and institutions to improve efficiency and viability of the regional port industry.
“Maritime transport in the Caribbean was found to be challenged by inadequate infrastructure provision and inefficient port operations. These lead to delays and additional transport costs.
“The study notes that the level of efficiency of the ports has an impact on import and exports costs, with a resultant effect on the competitiveness of national economies. Port efficiency also affects growth in price levels and hence the level of poverty. Port efficiency was therefore a major focus of the study,” the CDB noted.
The study entitled “Towards the Efficiency Frontier: Study on the Transformation of the Caribbean Maritime Port Services Industry” was undertaken by the Netherlands-based Maritime & Transport Business Solution BV (MTBS).
The countries that participated in the study were Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, The Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The CDB said that the indicators used in the port efficiency measure were berth productivity; labour productivity measured by TEUs per employee; quality of infrastructure; nautical accessibility measured by the maximum vessel draught; type of equipment used for stevedoring operations; type of IT systems used in port operations; and the level of autonomy of the port operator.
The Port of Nassau, in The Bahamas was the most efficient in the sample. According to MTBS, this was not surprising given the port’s newness and its joint public/ private sector leadership.
The second most efficient port was the port of Port of Spain, Trinidad which enjoys economies of scale, has the largest crane park and is a front runner on IT implementation.
Among CDB’s recommendations, based on the findings, are that BMCs should combine funding with port reform, where applicable.
The CDB said that as a development bank, it will exert its influence in order to realize port and/or labour reform, and work towards more efficient port operations.
The bank said it would also explore a regional port strategy for the OECS.
“Given the limited volumes being handled in the ports, port investments are often not financially feasible. Investments should be made under prudent guidance and with an awareness of the regional developments. It would be a waste of public resources for all the OECS countries to invest in deep-sea facilities,” the study added.
The bank is also recommending the allocation of funds to finance port labour training.
The study recommended that specific attention should be paid to training of operational staff managed by the public sector which have been deficient with respect to the use of IT and equipment operation and maintenance.
The study also recommends that policymakers take into consideration the regional and competitive environment.
“Port development projects are capital intensive and require prudent investment decisions. It is therefore crucial to assume a regional perspective and to understand the regional dynamics and the role of the respective ports. The highly connected OECS ports should especially consider a regional perspective strategy.”
The findings and recommendations were presented for discussion at CDB’s 46th Annual General meeting, which ended here earlier this week.