… looks to exciting growth ahead
Jamaica’s Kingston Wharves Ltd. (KWL) had great news for its shareholders in June. Board Chairman Jeffrey Hall, in his annual report, announced a 22% increase in 2021 revenues over the corresponding period in 2020. Profit (before tax) grew by 38%. And Net profits attributable to shareholders reflected an increase of 43% at the end of 2021.
“Capital investment in logistics and terminal infrastructure, along with major improvements to our digital architecture have streamlined our operations, enhanced our customer service delivery and attracted new business. These ongoing investments also continued to support the optimisation of our diverse cargo-handling capabilities and Special Economic Zone designation. These developments also uniquely positioned KWL to provide supply chain solutions to global and regional manufacturers, distributors and exporters,” the Chairman reported.
Released a mere six months or so after a much-publicised announcement of major expansion of US$60 million, these financial reports would have brought reassurances … enough to assuage pandemic-induced jitters about (any) major capital venture amidst speculative talk of possible global recession. Images of port congestion and ships in queue, while TV news guests glibly discuss global supply chain problems were still fresh in mind. The KWL Chairman addressed the issue. Describing the global economic outlook as cautiously optimistic due to “supply chain issues, inflation and the cost of energy among other factors” he noted that multi-lateral organisations were expressing caution and tempering expectations. Kingston Wharves will proceed accordingly yet remain committed to make strategic investments in human resource, infrastructure and digital technology to move even further up the value chain in regional and global shipping.
“We believe that the year ahead is filled with great opportunities for our business and we will continue to build with confidence to ensure that we maximise the benefits,” the KWL Chairman stated.
Opportunities in the year ahead may include nearshoring to which he had made a previous reference. He referred to ‘nearshoring’ as “an increasingly attractive characteristic of the new supply chain paradigm.” KWL has accelerated moves to build capacity as a nearshoring solution.
The US$60 million capital works announced by KWL at the end of 2021 is timely. And timely investment is money well spent. It includes planned berth redevelopment, construction of an Integrated Modular Warehouse Complex (at nearby Ashenheim Road in West Kingston’s industrial district) and the acquisition of a new state-of-the-art Gottwald Model 8 mobile harbour crane.
On completion, this capital investment will allow KWL to increase its logistics and warehousing capacity to about 500,000 sq.ft. and improve berthing infrastructure and general terminal management. It will certainly add space and organizational capacity to effectively handle business at hand or already appearing on the horizon. Its motor vehicle segment, for example, had growth of 42% in 2021.
KWL recorded substantial growth in the auto transhipment business, sufficient to offset the slower pace of recovery of cargo flows affected by the prevailing supply chain issue.
“During the year, we realized double digit growth in bulk and break bulk cargo, achieved a notable increase in containerised cargo volumes and moved more motor units than ever before. In June, we welcomed an unprecedented seven autoliners over a 72-hour period — a major accomplishment and one which signalled KWL’s growing reputation as the auto transshipment hub of choice for the region. These developments are commensurate with critical investment in key auto-logistics infrastructure such as our Global Auto Logistics Centre at Tinson Pen, and our ability to maintain strong partnerships with major international autoliners,” Chief Executive Officer, Mark Williams reported.
“Investments in warehousing and logistics infrastructure, berthing optimisation and digital technology, along with investment in our human resources, also gave us a solid foundation on which to build and maximise returns in an immensely competitive industry and under countervailing circumstances,” he stated.
The statistics and the financials show KWL as having had an exceptionally successful year in a time of global economic, social and political uncertainties and its success has been noticed. Mark Williams, CEO since January 2020 having joined the company in October 2011, acknowledged the recognition KWL had received in the period under review.
“We achieved the remarkable honour of receiving the 2021 Port Industry Award of Excellence for Technology and Innovation from the American Association of Port Authorities and the Organisation of American States. Being the recipient of this award from among some 26 entrants in the Americas, was a salute to our investment in digital technology, which powered our terminal operations, customer engagement, warehouse and back-office operations.”
Given the expectations at the upper level of this corporation and the high quality of its executive staff. KWL’s shareholders may be even happier in the year and years ahead. 
- First published August 1, 2022.