Jamaica to Relocate Planned Port Facility

The Goat Islands (courtesy Jamaica Environmental Trust)

Published Oct 13, 2016 8:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

Conservation groups have hailed a decision by the Jamaican government to relocate a planned transshipment terminal outside of the Portland Bight Protected Area, an environmental preserve that is home to one of the world's most endangered species.

Since 2013, the government has been developing a plan for a port complex on Great Goat Island, which lies within the reserve. The protected area contains the last known population of the ultra-rare Jamaican iguana, whose numbers have been decimated by habitat destruction and non-native predators. None of the lizards remain on Goat Island, but biologists involved in the species' preservation would like to reintroduce them there after eradicating invasive species. The construction of the port facility would have made this impractical; in addition, conservationists said that it would have a detrimental effect on sea life and fisheries in the area, which sustain local communities. 

China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) is the government's partner in the plan, and opponents have also argued that the majority of the jobs created by the port would go to foreigners.

Until very recently, the port seemed poised to go forward: on September 20, the Jamaican government reported to the IMF that technical feasibility studies had commenced and that it was moving towards an environmental impact assessment. But in comments at an event in New York a few days later, Prime Minister Andrew Holness told an audience that the port would not be built at Goat island due to its environmental footprint. 

"We have already taken a decision that there are other locations that would do less environmental damage. We are going ahead with a logistics port but not at Goat Island. The entry into an official document [for the IMF] may not have represented the decision of the government," he said.

A memorandum of understanding with CHEC regarding construction at Goat Island had just expired in August.

While the transshipment facility will be built elsewhere, Goat Island and the Portland Bight may yet see development. Gas company New Fortress Energy plans to build an LNG receiving terminal within the natural reserve. The terminal would consist of a vessel berth, a pipeline to shore and a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU). The subsea pipeline would feed the gas to a new power plant operated by Jamaica Public Service Company.

The location is desirable because it has sufficient depth to berth the FSRU and the LNG carriers without need for dredging, "yet has sufficient protection from storm wave impacts as a result of the shape of the Bight," the economic study said. 

The facility would be in addition to an existing LNG terminal in Montego Bay.