Role and Function
The Shipping Act of 1998, therefore, created the legal regime to govern maritime affairs in Jamaica and provided for the establishment of a maritime administration (MAJ) to administer and enforce its provisions. It also enunciated part of a maritime development policy which focused on the structured expansion of ship registration and crewing activities with the objective of maximizing the potential of the Maritime Sector in contributing to the socio-economic well being of the nation.
Maritime safety, marine pollution prevention and the welfare of (Jamaican) seamen are the primary areas of focus of the Authority. The scope of activities of the MAJ as laid out in section 8 of the Shipping Act are to:
- Administer the registration of ships
- Regulate the certification of seafarers
- Regulate the safety of shipping as regards the construction of ships and navigation
- Administer policy for the development of shipping in general
- Inspect ships for the purposes of maritime safety and prevention of marine pollution
- Establish maritime training and safety standards; and
- Make inquiries as to shipwrecks or other casualties affecting ships, or as to charges of incompetence or misconduct on the part of seafarers in relation to such casualties.
Registration of Ships: The MAJ launched the JSR in October 2000 as a part of an overall maritime development strategy which envisioned the growth of the JSR as a platform for increasing Jamaica’s profile in the international shipping community and a catalyst for investment in other maritime activities such as bunkering, dry- docking, marine insurance, ship brokering and finance among others. This aspect will be presented in more details in “the maritime sector and prospects for the future”. In this regard, the MAJ not only operates the JSR but also collaborates with key entities in the maritime sector to develop and promote Jamaica as a maritime center.
The JSR currently has thirty-four (34) internationally trading ships which are over 24 meters in length. Seventeen of these vessels are beneficially owned by European based companies and trade globally. Additionally, mortgages totaling USD 34M is recorded on the register with Greek banks holding the largest share of the mortgage loans. There are over 1500 vessels which operate locally and they are engaged in watersports, chartering, fishing activities, pilot boats, and other marine commercial support activities.
Section 15 of the Shipping Act prohibits foreign flag vessels from operating commercially in Jamaican waters (described as local trade in Jamaican waters) without a local trade certificate. Through the local trade regime, the MAJ ensures that foreign vessels conducting commercial activities in Jamaican waters meet national and international requirements for maritime safety, security and pollution prevention. Vessels which are issued with local trade certificates include tankers, barges, cable laying vessels and dredges.
Maritime Training & the Certification of Seafarers: The Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) located in Jamaica, is the only IMO approved training institution in the English speaking the Caribbean for the training of officers and carries out training on behalf of most countries in the Caribbean. The MAJ works closely with the CMI, to ensure seafarers trained at the Institute are of the highest quality. In this regard, the MAJ approves the syllabus and examine candidates for the issue certificates of competency. The MAJ also carries out monitoring of the delivery of training and periodic audits of the CMI in this regard.
The MAJ has also been actively involved in assisting some Caribbean states in establishing the capability to deliver basic safety training and has been recently requested by the IMO to implement a formal project in the Region to assist other states.
Safety of shipping & Inspection of Ships: Relative to maritime safety and pollution prevention, inspection is conducted annually on over 1200 local (small) vessels and on approximately 15% of foreign vessel calling at Jamaican ports, under the Caribbean Memorandum of Understanding on (CMOU) port state control regime. Jamaica currently hosts the Secretariat for the CMOU.
Surveys are also conducted on convention-sized Jamaican ships operating in Jamaican waters and internationally, to ensure adherence to international maritime standards. In addition, surveys are conducted in respect of convention vessels on behalf of other maritime administrations in the Caribbean on request, including in relation to the implementation of the ISPS Code.
At the local level, awareness campaigns are ongoing, to sensitize vessel operators, including those in the fishing industry, to attain desirable safety standards and to encourage their compliance in order to reduce the occurrences of accidents and loss of life. Emphasis has also been placed on marine pollution prevention, where the MAJ investigates marine pollution incidents and takes an active part in the response and compensation issues.
This proactive preventive approach is also extended to our international trading vessels as the MAJ in keeping with its commitment to quality, has adopted a policy of working directly with ship managers of Jamaican vessels to ensure rectification of any deficiencies identified by class or flag state surveyors and that statutory surveys are conducted in a timely manner.
At the international level, participation in fora where maritime standards are developed is a critical activity of the MAJ in order to ensure that the challenges involved in the implementation of standards are identified and appropriately addressed. In this regard, the MAJ participates in critical IMO committees such as Maritime Safety (MSC), Marine Environment Protection (MEPC), Standards of Training and Watch-keeping (STW), Flag State Implementation (FSI), Legal, Council, and Technical Cooperation Committees. The MAJ currently has three persons appointed to the IMO panel of Competent persons concerned with assessing the effectiveness of States’ implementation of the STCW Convention and the Director General of the MAJ currently holds the chair of the STW Sub-Committee.
Inquiries as to Shipwrecks & other Casualties: Investigations into Casualty investigations are conducted relative to maritime accidents/incidents which occur in Jamaican waters or which involve Jamaicans ship anywhere in the world.
The MAJ is, therefore, a maritime administration with both a regulatory and developmental mandate. In its regulatory capacity, it is the focal point for the implementation of the international maritime conventions which govern shipping and to which Jamaica is a party and has overall responsibility for ensuring maritime safety, security, seafarers competency, and marine pollution prevention standards are maintained in accordance with international and national standards.