Despite the uncertainties the positives raised hopes

2017, March 1: The mist of uncertainty, concern and fear that brought gloom to global shipping last year did not last too long in the tropical heat. Once the sun rose on 2017, indeed even before the Yuletide celebrations began in December last, good news was already pouring out of the Caribbean.

Shipping, the world over, had undergone a year of unpleasant surprises in 2016, with mergers and acquisitions collectively telling tales of lost fortunes and misfortunes. However, in the Caribbean, as 2016 came to an end, there were positives sufficient to raise hopes and fuel expectations.

Positive developments

The government of St. Kitts and Nevis announced plans to build a new cruise pier at Port Zante, thus giving the country capability to accommodate Oasis class ships; the expanded Panama Canal, with its new locks barely six months old, was already handling 10 Neopanamax lines; major expansion and upgrading was underway at the Port of Kingston, Jamaica; and, the news was out that the Caribbean Maritime Institute had satisfied all stipulated requirements and had completed the process of getting the Jamaican Parliament to grant it university status.

Meanwhile, the Port Management Association of the Caribbean (PMAC), having just completed one of its most successful years, was already looking forward to 2017 with positive expectations as it planned its 20th AGM in Grand Cayman. Antigua and Barbuda started discussions with major cruise lines about implementation of its master plan to improve and expand its cruise facilities. And executives of the Cuban Port of Mariel were already courting business interests in the USA, for a visit they were planning for January 2017.

And so, even as global shipping lines, burdened by overcapacity, peered into a misty future, hoping for the best but fearing more of what 2016 had to offer, Caribbean maritime interests were, generally, more encouraged or, perhaps, less discouraged.

Difficulty riding swells

Notwithstanding guarded optimism in the Caribbean for a prosperous 2017, the region will find difficulty riding swells of political conflict and social unrest that continue to dominate news emanating from the capital of the USA. As Canute James observed (page 30), “… the Caribbean will have to deal with a new dispensation in Washington, less so from indications of demagoguery and more from the tendency to isolationism contained in the promises to “make America great again” and to “put America first.”

Executives from the Cuban Port of Mariel, having had fruitful discussions with three Florida ports that would lead to business relationships between Mariel and Port Everglades, Tampa Bay and Palm Beach, found out, at the last minute, that the Governor of Florida had given the thumbs-down to any port-to-port relationship between Florida and Cuba. The draft agreements were promptly shelved (page 25).  As James stated: “Obama made the changes in relations with Cuba with relative ease. Trump, with equal ease, could roll back these changes.” []

Mike Jarrett, Editor-in-Chief