“By deliberately promoting innovation and moving into new ways of doing business within the last decade, the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ) was fortuitously prepared to face this ‘new normal’”, stated Charles Johnston, referring to the organisation’s effective response to COVID-19. Johnston was delivering his President’s Report at the 82nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Shipping Association of Jamaica held on Friday, November 27, at the SAJ’s headquarters in Newport West, Kingston.
The outgoing president of the SAJ did not seek a third consecutive term in office, and in handing over leadership to William Brown, group managing director of Lannaman & Morris (Shipping) Group of Companies, he said that “the changes we have made in recent years aptly position the association to meet the opportunities and the challenges that we will face in the coming years”.
Johnston, who previously served as president of the SAJ in 1993, noted that members distinguished themselves as “exemplars in manoeuvring the unprecedented socioeconomic reality brought on by the pandemic”. He commended members of the shipping community for their swift action to implement strategies to maintain cargo operations while keeping staff and customers safe.
EVENTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Events and achievements of the past year that were cited in the President’s Report to the SAJ AGM include adopting and promoting, among staff members and the community, creative and practical solutions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19; participating in discussions and preparation of a written submission to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on the replacement of the Customs Act of 1941; operationalising the long-awaited left-turn access to Ninth Avenue in Newport West; continuing to pursue an Industrial Park for Newport West; continuating an integral role in the development of the Caribbean Maritime University and the restorating of its reputation; resolving a legal matter with a shipping line along with the terminal operator, Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited, and continuating the weekly shipping feature in The Gleaner.
PROTOCOLS FOR SEAFARERS
In his report, Johnston also informed members of their presentations made by the SAJ to the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) and the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ) to set out procedures to allow for crew changes and repatriation during the pandemic. Travel restrictions implemented globally, as well as by the GOJ, at the start of the pandemic, left many seafarers stranded on, and unable to join, ships. The MAJ was receptive to the recommendations of the SAJ. A protocol was drafted by the SAJ and mirrors one produced by the MAJ and implemented by the Government. Jamaica is one of the few countries in the world that has taken the steps of implementing such protocols, which will prove beneficial to the supply chain as a whole.
The pandemic did not prevent the SAJ from continuing to develop and nurture talent through the continuous training of employees at all levels of the organisation. In the 2019-2020 period, stevedores, administrative staff, staff of member companies, security guards, and members of the supplemental labour pool participated in training programmes offered or facilitated by the SAJ.
The SAJ maintains its accreditation status with the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education Training and is an Accredited Training Organization for programmes including Stevedoring Foundation Skills; Warehousing Operations and Stevedoring Operations. During the period, 22 stevedores were trained to operate vehicles on the car vessels in keeping with fulfilling the demand for drivers on car-vessel operations at Kingston Wharves.
During the past year, the SAJ trained 20 logistics clerks to work in warehouse facilities at the Port of Kingston, bringing the total to 68 persons trained through this programme since its inception in 2018.
Training seminars attended by SAJ staff throughout the year covered the following subject areas: employee relations, supervisory management, workplace wellness, and labour laws.
Also, as part of its mandate to provide training for the shipping industry, the SAJ offered the Public Speaking for Executives course. Twenty-three employees from member companies and corporate Jamaica participated in this course.
The SAJ’s education-assistance programme assists with back-to-school expenses for children of employees. For the 2019-2020 academic year, 91 employees (stevedores and administration) participated in the programme, which benefitted 137 students.
JOINT INDUSTRIAL COUNCIL
The SAJ promotes a high quality of industrial relations in the shipping industry through the Joint Industrial Council (JIC), which it established in 1952 in partnership with the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, the United Portworkers and Seamen Union, and the Trade Union Congress. The JIC continues to meet on the last Wednesday of each month to discuss issues affecting the Port of Kingston and its workers, always with the aim of providing solutions and recommendations while maintaining good industrial relations.
The SAJ and its members have a long history of community outreach, which forms an integral part of its commitment to being a positive force in Jamaica’s social development. The Marcus Garvey Basic School in Greenwich Town continued to receive the full support of the SAJ in 2020 with the organisation maintaining its presence as a member of the school board. The SAJ recently donated desktop computers to the Marcus Garvey Basic School as well as to the Tavares Gardens Primary School to assist both institutions in their online learning programmes.
For many years, the SAJ has provided a free medical clinic as part of its community outreach programme, and this continued in 2019-2020, with 53 new persons being treated and 165 returning patients receiving medical attention.
A NEW YEAR, NEW LEADERS
The new president of the SAJ takes office in a year unlike any other in the 82-year history of the SAJ, but William Brown says he is “not daunted by the challenge”. Brown thanked members of the SAJ for their unanimous support in making him the sole nominee for president and said that he looks forward to their continued support as the association continues its work in lobbying on behalf of Jamaican shipping interests and as a service provider to the ports.
Brown is a chartered accountant and certified international trade professional specialising in fraud, inventory logistics, shipping agency forensics, as well as international trade investigations under the auspices of the World Trade Organization.
He is one of two Jamaican representatives on the General Council of the Caribbean Shipping Association, a member of the board of directors of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, and chairs the Government’s Enterprise Committee for the Privatisation of Jamaica’s Ship Registry.
The SAJ also welcomed Corah Ann Robertson Sylvester to the post of vice-president as Grantley Stephenson did not seek re-election for the post. Robertson Sylvester is the CEO of Seaboard Freight and Shipping Jamaica Limited and was the sole nominee for vice-president. In accepting the position, she said that “the SAJ was formed in a period of unrest 82 years ago, and we are currently in a period of great challenge, but as we did then, we will get through this together”.
Robertson Sylvester served as president of the Caribbean Shipping Association from 2003 to 2005 and is still the only woman to have led that organisation. She has been a director of the SAJ since 2005, and in 2016, was appointed chair of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica.
At its AGM, the SAJ also elected Anna Hamilton and Condell Stephenson as new members of its Managing Committee. Hamilton is CEO of Jamaica Freight & Shipping Co Ltd and has over 14 years of experience in the shipping industry while Stephenson has some 50 years of experience in shipping and is port captain for HoeghAutoliners.
The 82nd AGM of the SAJ was chaired by Trevor Riley, CEO of the organisation, and the presentation of financial statements was made by Fiona Hall, SAJ’s operations manager, finance.