The cruise destination of Port Antonio, Jamaica is working hard to clean up a flood of garbage, which has led to a serious rat problem and the cancelation of six cruise ship calls.
Port Antonio was once Jamaica's main port for banana exports, and in its heyday it was a destination for Hollywood celebrities. Today it is better known as a quiet stopover for smaller cruise vessels, but piles of garbage have hurt its reputation among cruise operators. The Jamaica Gleaner reports that the town lost six port calls this season due to the unsanitary conditions, and it may soon lose another. On January 4, the 170-passenger sailing vessel Star Flyer is due to call at Port Antonio on her voyage to Cienfuegos, Cuba.
"With a cruise ship schedule for January 4, it is going to be a serious challenge getting the town back to a state of readiness and acceptance. Nevertheless, it has to be done," said the town's mayor, Paul Thompson, speaking to the Gleaner. Local businesses say that garbage pickup services have been slow and infrequent, and Thompson pledged to negotiate with the national garbage company to hire in private contractors to do the job instead. In addition, Thompson has promised tighter enforcement of the town's anti-littering laws.
Last week, the executive director of Jamaica's National Solid Waste Management Agency, Audley Gordon, said that his organization wants to address the problem and is considering a new public-private partnership. “We are in conversation now . . . to see how we can implement a pilot project in one of our regions where there is an investor who is willing to bring in 40-odd trucks,” he said. “We really want to look at that one, with a view of getting that implemented, because at the end of the day, we must take up the garbage."
On Thursday he added that he will meet with Port Antonio stakeholders early in the new year to address local problems. However, he countered that part of the issue lay with the citizenry. "We know some businesses are disposing of garbage improperly . . . [and] that many persons refuse to dispose of their refuse properly. Garbage is thrown from cars, in gullies, in open lots, and on the streets; even where there are proper receptacles, people still refuse to use them and in many cases steal/relocate/reassign them," he said.