Three years after its completion, berth five at the Bridgetown Port has finally been outfitted with a state-of-the art gantry crane.
The US$12 million equipment forms part of ongoing developments at the Bridgetown Port, which handles some 100,000 units of containers.
And officials are upbeat that the latest addition has already started to bear fruit, increasing the island’s chances of becoming a trans-shipment point for the Eastern Caribbean.
Addressing a brief commissioning ceremony at the University Row, St Michael location, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Port Inc. (BPI) David Jean-Marie gave a history of the development of the location over the years, indicating that after its opening in 1961 on about 91 acres of reclaimed land at a cost of about $13 million, upgrades have been ongoing.
“It still works for us at this stage in 2019,” he said.
Despite many changes over the years, it was in 2003 that an agreement was reached for the reform and expansion of the port, when the change in operation from the Barbados Port Authority to the BPI took effect.
However, with the first crane not as efficient as it was when it was first installed more than 27 years ago, officials decided in 2015 to install a second one as part of a $100 million upgrade.
However, Jean-Marie said the decision was taken to purchase a third modern crane with all the features necessary to accommodate larger vessels as the island positions itself to be a leader in the cargo business in the Caribbean.
“We believe it is a good investment and it will serve us well. We have our operators who are well trained to operate this piece of equipment,” said Jean-Marie.
“We have already seen results in terms of commitments from lines to bring additional business to Barbados. On my desk now, I am looking at a proposal to have more transhipment business come to Barbados,” he said.
Opting not to give details, the port official said he was currently in discussions with a number of other entities that were interested in doing business.
“Hopefully we will come to a conclusion on those very shortly,” he said.
Jean-Marie said the port has already sent a technical team to Ireland for training so they would be able to maintain the crane, which was provided by Liebherr Panamax Container Cranes.
It is hoped that the new crane would enhance the cargo handling capacity of the port, improve turn around time of vessels, and increase the island’s chances of becoming a trans-shipment point for the southern Caribbean.
While the port currently handles close to 100,000 bulk cargo per year Jean-Marie said the aim was to reach 180,000 per year over the next ten years of mainly transshipment cargo.
He said given that the first crane had some structural issues and refurbishment costs were “very high”, officials were currently analyzing the situation to determine whether to fix it or sell it.
Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Dr Leo Brewster said the crane was an important step in the overall expansion and development of the facility.
“This installation … will facilitate faster vessels turnaround. The addition will also encourage more transshipment business. This gantry crane sets the tone for the start of what will be a significant transformation of the Port of Bridgetown over the next ten years,” said Brewster.
Government has outlined a plan to make the port one of the most innovative, green maritime hubs in the world by 2030.
Brewster said while focus was being placed on this, it would not be done without ensuring that the port’s infrastructure was able to mitigate against man-made and natural disasters, and development of the human resources within the marine industry.