| KINGSTON, April 1
KINGSTON, April 1 The Jamaican government has
signed a preliminary agreement with one of China's leading
construction companies for the development of a controversial
transshipment hub off its southwest coast, Jamaica's state
information service said on Tuesday.
The framework agreement with China Harbour Engineering
Co(CHEC) seeks to develop the Portland Bight Protected Area
southwest of the capital, popularly called the Goat Islands,
which are inhabited by insects and small reptiles and covered
with wild vegetation.
The area surrounding the islands serves as a breeding ground
for fish and other marine species, which has led to stiff
resistance to the project from local environmentalists.
"We treasure the preservation of the environment as much as
any other group, and we are concerned about the human beings and
the plight of poverty, and the impact which that has on the
environment," the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) quoted Omar
Davies, the cabinet minister responsible for the development, as
saying at a private signing ceremony last weekend.
The government said that the project, part of a larger
logistics hub, would create 2,000 jobs during the construction
phase and 10,000 jobs when it is completed.
"A project which does not harm the environment, and will
improve people's living standards, must be explored," Davies was
quoted as saying, calling the deal a "win-win situation".
The hub is being planned as an addition to the existing port
of Bustamante in Kingston and is designed to facilitate faster
distribution of container cargo, mainly from China, throughout
Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean region.
CHEC is a global contractor with 50 overseas branches and is
a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC).
The Chinese company has estimated that the project will take
five years to complete.
(Editing by David Adams; and Peter Galloway)