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A decade of rapid growth: expansion of Kingston’s Container Terminal

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Author(s): Vincent Crockett, Mott MacDonald, UK


This article looks at some of the key planning challenges that have been overcome in developing Kingston Container Terminal to where it is today and some of those which remain to be faced in the future.

The growth in China’s ability to export containerised cargoes around the world and the impacts that this has had and continues to have on the liner shipping and container terminal sectors has been well documented. A key driver of this growth is the North American consumer’s continued demand for imported goods from East Asia and from China in particular.

The large volumes of containerised imports which need to be handled have presented significant challenges for North American terminals, particularly terminals in the United States: these challenges being over and above those presented in the form of limited natural water depths and regulatory constraints such as the Jones Act.

In order to overcome these constraints significant investments have been made in container transhipment terminals at locations outside the United States, particularly in the Caribbean Basin. Of the insular Caribbean terminals, Kingston, in Jamaica, operated by the Port Authority of Jamaica, has emerged as the pre-eminent container transhipment terminal. Kingston’s success is built on its central location within the Caribbean Basin close to east-west and north south trade routes and in particular routes passing through the Panama Canal.

Development of container transhipment – a decade of growth

Container volumes at Kingston have grown dramatically in the last decade: rising fourfold from 478,000 TEU in 1996 to 1.9 million TEU in 2006. This equates to an annual growth rate of approximately 15 per cent. In recent years, development of this growth has been assisted further by the Port Authority’s appointment of APM Terminals as terminal managers and the subsequent adoption of Kingston as a key regional hub by Maersk Line.

This level of growth has created several major challenges for the Port Authority, notably the need for:

• Deeper, wider navigation channels and manoeuvring basins

• Space for terminal yard expansion, both for full and increasingly – post industrial economies such as the United States generate major imbalances between import and export trade flows – empty containers

• Meeting throughput handling pressure to maintain carrier sailing schedules

• Resolution of spatial land use planning conflicts as the expanding port encroaches into the immediate urban hinterland These challenges have needed to be resolved in a short time period and against a backdrop of competing demands for scarce coastal development frontage, particularly in a sensitive Caribbean coastal environment.

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Edition 34

PTI Edition 34 • Digital & Print
In edition 34 of Port Technology International, we look at how fast-scan technology increases security and decreases bottlenecks; how WiFi technology is powering real-time intermodal operations at Deurganck terminal; and focus on the growth of the Baltic States, and development strategies for Lithuanian ports.

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