Travel, Ports, Shipping and Courier Services

By the Shipping Association of Trinidad and Tobago, E. Joanne Edwards

What were the most significant recent developments for the maritime sector? Over the course of 2017 into 2018, there have been both negative and positive developments in the maritime sector, the most significant of which were:

  • Seabridge between Trinidad and Tobago. The Seabridge has been an abysmal failure in its current form, and the model for it desperately needs to change. It continues to be a resource draining and highly inefficient transport model that need not remain so. The Shipping Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT) calls for an urgent convening of a commission to explore and implement, in whole or in part, the recommendations put forward by experts within the fraternity.
  • The resumption of Ship to Ship Transfers, aka, Transshipment. Trinidad and Tobago has a major competitive/location advantage for these activities – the sheltered and calm waters of the Gulf of Paria, and a cadre of shipping agents well experienced in the coordination of these operations. The sudden cessation of the authorisation to conduct these activities in 2017 occurred at a time when demand was quite high and caused serious disruption in the supply chain for this service. Trinidad and Tobago lost out on a golden opportunity to earn millions of dollars in foreign exchange during the affected period. STS transfer is a lucrative niche in the maritime industry, with significant opportunity for growth and it is highly dependent on appropriate facilitating regulation.
  • The recover of LNG production in Trinidad is also quite significant. Specific to the maritime industry, this means a corresponding increase in demand for ship agency services, as well as ancillary services such as Pilotage.
  • Implementation of two container scanners at the Port of Point Lisas. In April of 2018, the Customs & Excise Division, whose line Ministry is the Ministry of Finance, formally launched these scanners at Point Lisas. two of four donated to Trinidad and Tobago by the Government of the United States. This technology will aid in combating the importation of contraband including narcotics, firearms and ammunition. They are designed to detect weapons, hazardous materials and other illegal activities such as human trafficking.

Outlook for the maritime sector in T&T for 2018-2019 Provided the economy picks up, moreso in the context of increased foreign exchange earnings from a significant increase in activity in the energy sector, only then can we expect a corresponding increase in imports and exports which directly affects the industry and drives the demand for shipping services.

Key challenges and how they can be addressed

The main challenges facing the local maritime industry continue to be the absence of strong maritime policy and strategy; poor facilitating regulation and legislation—including debilitating Customs Administration. Lack of investment in port infrastructure is also a major weakness which is likely to become more pressing as larger vessels continue to be deployed.

Major developments are expected in 2018-2019

We expect a major decision to be made regarding the location of an inbound/outbound port and logistics hub. This project, if proceeded with, is expected to facilitate the capture of increased transshipment traffic; improve port performance for transshipment and domestic goods; improve land utilization and increase competitiveness. We also expect the Revenue Authority, the umbrella entity under which Customs is to be absorbed, to be implemented. This is expected to have a significant impact on needed customs reform.

For investors, the economic climate of the maritime industry, and doing business in T&T

Again, the absence of policy and strategy to complement the growth potential is proving a major inhibiting factor. Investors want something they can rely on that demonstrates the government’s commitment to the identified segments of the market, and what incentives (including facilitating regulation and legislation) will be in place to support said growth potential. This is particularly necessary in the case for Bunkering, Ship Repair, and the Inbound-Outbound Port and Logistics Hub.

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