However, he highlighted that the absence of critical legislation is holding back the country from benefiting fully from the sector.
“We intend, within eight months, to take some Bills through Parliament [namely] the Maritime Labour Convention, Maritime Pollution and Ballast Water Bills. If we do not sign on to the Labour Convention and enact the laws, we will continue to deny our people opportunities,” Montague argued.
It is estimated that just fewer than 3,000 people work within the maritime sector.
“We can double that over time, once we sign the Convention and enact the laws. This will clear the way for shipping companies to employ many more Jamaicans, not only as officers but as crew,” the minister said.
“We will be able to get more housekeepers, spa technicians, cooks, waiters and bartenders. Shipping companies will not recruit wholesale from those countries which do not sign to these agreements,” he added.
Meanwhile, Montague said the MAJ is moving to strengthen its mandate as some of the functions of the Authority are being carried out by the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ).
“This became so, as the PAJ was the developer of the ports and had to fill the gap. The MAJ has now matured and will be assuming its full role as set out in the law,” he said.
On the matter of bunkering, Montague pointed out that big ships pass through the country's waters and, as such, the need for fuel will increase as the ships can take more cargo if they set sail with less fuel, knowing that they can get fuel in Jamaica, the minister noted.
He said that this is an opportunity being actively pursued, adding that, currently, “there are three firms doing bunkering, and we want to see more”.
The minister told the House that the country is far advanced in divesting its ship registry and that by year-end, this should be achieved.
“Our new partner will be able to do more marketing, thus our earnings will increase. The maritime industry is set to grow, thus spreading the prosperity to more homes and the economy,” Montague said.