Logistics Hub project
A March 2012 presentation by JAMPRO (Trade & Investment Jamaica) to the 4th Annual UK-Jamaica Investment Forum included development of Vernamfield Aerodrome as a key component of a planned ‘Regional Manufacturing and Logistics Hub’ to expand Jamaica’s already substantial cargo networks. Aiming to position the country as the logistics hub of the region the multi-modal logistics hub project spans the southeast coast of the island. The Vernamfield element comprises air cargo, air/sea logistics, distribution centres, commercial space for trade shows and a dry port with warehousing facilities for off-site manufacturing/assembly plants. Logistics development is supported by key trade agreements: CARICOM (Caribbean Common Market), Caribbean Basin Initiative and EC-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement facilitating access of Jamaican products to EU markets. A 2016 video ‘The sum is greater than its parts, Jamaica’s Global Logistics Hub’ shows development of the aerodrome, now called Vernamfield Air Cargo Facility, as a key component of the logistics hub project, depicting proliferation of grey buildings. Other elements of the project shown in the video, emphasising availability of greenfield (undeveloped) land, are: Caymanas Special Economic Zone (SEZ), expansion of Kingston Container port, a logistics park, commodity bulk shipment port and expansion of Norman Manley Airport.
By March 2017 development of Vernamfield was described as an ‘aerotropolis’. Transport and Housing Minister, Mike Henry, said: “Aerotropolis is the new development which Time Magazine says drives the greatest development of the economies of the world” adding that Vernamfield would be able to accommodate the Antonov An-124, the world’s largest cargo aircraft. He said the Aerotropolis, including establishment of an aerospace college, aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities (MRO) and a “myriad of supporting businesses” would be the major driver for development of 1,619 hectares of land, promising thousands of job opportunities for young people. In July 2017 the Government has not yet given a cost or timeline for Vernamfield Aerotropolis, but reported strong interest from overseas investors, willing to pump between USD2 billion and USD3 billion into the project, including at least three expressions of interest.
SEZ and links with aluminium manufacturing
A June 2018 press briefing by Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority (JSEZA), announced Chinese firm Jinquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCO)’s plans to invest USD3 billion to develop Gansu Industrial Park and Special Economic Zone in Nain, where it operates the Alpart aluminium refinery. The industrial park, to underpin JISCO’s aluminium manufacturing, involves a bauxite refinery, an electricity plant to power it and a smelter. Described as ‘pivotal’ to Jamaica’s Logistics Hub Initiative it is one of the three largest SEZ’s being developed by JSEZA, the other two being Caymanas SEZ and Vernamfield Aerotropolis. Under a new system announced in April 2019 developers located in SEZs will receive a ‘raft of tax incentives’ such as a corporate income tax rate of 12.5 per cent, no taxes on dividends or rental property plus tax credits on research and development.
In July 2018 minister without portfolio Mike Henry informed the House of Representatives that Jamaica-Gansu Industrial Park, spearheaded by JISCO and inclusive of bauxite related expansion, will be integrated significantly with Vernamfield Aerotropolis development. Opposition to a proposed coal-fired power plant linked to upgrade of JISCO’s bauxite-aluminium manufacturing was documented on EJatlas in 2017. An abundance of cheap energy is required for aluminium smelting. More than 21,000 people signed a petition opposing JISCO’s proposals for a 1,000 megawatt plant. Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) led the #SayNOtoCoalJA initiative urging the government not to use coal as a fuel for industrial development, as it would contribute to global warming and pollution causing respiratory illnesses.
Initial works, security and a census
An initial project to re-establish Vernamfield Aerodrome was announced in July 2018. Following meetings with stakeholders plans were being made for Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) to provide a presence and security at the site. Mike Henry, Member of Parliament for Central Clarendon, said: “The next stage will involve attracting the investments needed to complete what will eventually become the Vernamfield Aerotropolis Jamaica.” He also reported increasing interest in starting cargo operations, from Far Eastern companies, saying that upon completion Vernamfield Aerotropolis would be capable of accommodating 2 million tonnes of cargo. With its mandate as lead Government entity for re-establishment of the aerodrome the AAJ mandated strategic priorities including: obtaining approval from the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), working in collaboration with the JDF and Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to ensure safety and security and ensuring appropriate public consultation and stakeholder involvement including citizens within and around the Vernamfield area, landowners and occupiers.
In October 2018 Project Manager for the Vernamfield Aerotropolis, Colonel Oscar Derby, informed a town hall meeting that a census would be conducted in the communities surrounding the project site, in order to ascertain the number of people and households living in the area. He said the surveys would be conducted under the Government’s Housing, Opportunity, production and Employment (HOPE) Programme. Colonel Derby also said that phase one Vernamfield Aerotropolis activities had already commenced, involving development of the first 69 hectares of land designated for the project and being undertaken by AAJ. He said funding had been set aside for initial activities including erecting fences and gates, electricity connection and rehabilitation of the runway.
Clearing vegetation and plans for produce exports
By January 2019 vegetation had been removed to make way for development but discovery of existing facilities, notably an underground water supply system and a large storage tank, posed a were hurdles to clearing the land. A site visit by Mike Henry, Colonel Derby and other local stakeholders was part of efforts to get an update on developments including acquisition of additional land required for the project and community ‘buy-in’ of the changes that will result. Derby said the plan for Vernamfield Aerotropolis is for it to become the world’s fourth largest logistics node, after the established nodes in Rotterdam, Singapore and Dubai, with this goal necessitating acquisition of private lands around the aerodrome.
In July 2019 President of Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Lenworth Fulton, informed farmers attending the organisation’s 124th annual general meeting that the decision to create an agro-processing hub at Denbigh ‘dovetails’ with the Government’s planned Vernamfield Aerotropolis, from which horticulture and aquaculture produce could reach world markets within 24 hours.
AAJ invited sealed bids for construction of chain-link fencing at Vernamfield Aerodrome on 4th February 2020. The scope of work specified construction of a concrete toe wall, erection of PVC chain link mesh fencing 1.4 metres high and double leaf chain link gates.(See less)