German Ship Repair confident it will contribute to Ja's growth target

Business reporter

Friday, March 22, 2019

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German Ship Repair Jamaica Limited (GSRJ), the joint venture that offers expertise in repair and management of sea vessels, is confident that its dockyard in Kingston will make a significant contribution to Jamaica's GDP growth target of three per cent by 2021.

“I think we are very prepared to contribute to that growth, especially the sector of employment and job creation,” GSRJ Human Resource Manager Dr Birte Timm told reporters and editors at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

However, while the company is optimistic that it can play a critical role in the country's growth process, Dr Timm reasoned that a revival of skills training is needed for Jamaica to realise the sector's true potential.

“What needs to be done in Jamaica is definitely a stronger focus on skills training. The lack of a ship repair industry in Jamaica is going to be challenging ground to start with, so we have to put in a strong training programme,” she continued.

Recently, GSRJ partnered with Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) to undertake a skills training programme, aimed at increasing employment in the logistics and maritime industries.

The two-year German Dual Apprenticeship Model entails theory and apprenticeship components covering aspects of ship repair and welding. Plans are now underway to introduce mechanical engineering and machine repair as the next competences, with considerations to be given to painting, refurbishing and carpentry.

The ship repair company's partnership with CMU comes three years after the dockyard began operating in Jamaica. Roughly a year into operation, the company complained that Jamaica lacked the skills set needed, resulting in GSRJ reaching out to the Government and the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) authority which culminated in an agreement with CMU.

To date, the company has 20 participants in the programme. They have already covered a year and a half of training in ship repair and welding. Still, it's a drop in the bucket compared to the 1,000 skilled jobs GSRJ hopes to create for Jamaicans in the long term when the company commissions its second floating dock.

“The limited skill-set does impact our daily lifestyle to a great extent,” Dr Timm said. “Right now, we are doing wet repair operation and we have a very small team.

“In any given trade in Germany, you'll have a company with 50 employees and one or two trainees. We here have to flip the script and we have to make an impact from the start in the training sector, which means we are ourselves investing in it,” Dr Timm reasoned.

In February, the Planning Institute of Jamaica announced that growth of up to three per cent, over the next five years, will be led by projects associated with Jamaica's Logistics Hub initiative, SEZs, the port, and other major infrastructure developments.

GSRJ and the Caymanas SEZ South are predicted to be the main producers of growth for the year 2021.

GSRJ began operating in November 2016. Its investors include Harren's company H&P Caribbean Maritime Services Limited; Kloska Technik GmbH; and Jamaica Dry Dock Limited owned by Jamaicans Charles Johnston and Kim Clarke.

The company, which has over 10 years' experience in servicing the Caribbean Feeder Services Fleets from Kingston, said it chose Kingston for the dock repair service because the city is a major Caribbean economic centre and a main maritime hub.

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