Ports Authority of the Turks and Caicos Islands – Weathering the Storm
We learn how the Ports Authority of the Turks and Caicos Islands is helping the islands’ economy thrive even in difficult conditions.
The Ports Authority of the Turks and Caicos Islands is the Government statutory body which is responsible for the operations of the Government’s commercial ports.
We cover all aspects of port operations to ensure ports are secure for international shipments as well as ensuring the ports are safe in terms of protecting the environment and ensuring the safety of port workers and visitors,” explains Delton Jones, the Deputy Director of the organisation. “We have three ports under our authority, operating in a safe and secure environment.”
The Ports Authority of the Turks and Caicos Islands has set itself the goal of becoming one of the Caribbean’s leading ports by providing professional and quality services to the people and businesses of the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI).
“We’re a small port but we want to be active internationally”, Urban Francis, Chairman of the Board of Directors tells us. “This year we’re the Chair of the Caribbean delegation to the American Association of Port Authorities. We’re a small Ports Authority punching above our weight. It’s all exciting really.”
The standards of safety, security and sustainability that the Ports Authority provides are what allows it to consistently punch above its weight. The Authority provides the highest standards of safety, quality and service in seaport and port facility operations, in a way that has enhanced the reputation not only of the ports but the Turks and Caicos Islands as a whole, improving the national economy to the benefit of both the Government and people of the Islands.
Across all their operations the Ports Authority’s priorities have been the management, maintenance and regulation of the Turks & Caicos Islands Port System, which includes the three ports, Grand Turk, South Caicos and Providenciales.
“What you want to do is operate with one standard across all three ports, despite the different levels of activity, and ensure the port infrastructure at each port is ahead of the economic development anticipated to take place on each island,” explains Francis. “This means the ports can support prosperity and development and poverty reduction on the islands where they are located.”
Across these ports, the Authority is constantly working to improve the environmental performance of each port, invest in port infrastructure where a need is identified, diversify the level of services offered to port users and attract new businesses while ensuring the continued satisfaction of existing customers and users.
“In my view, what sets us apart is that we are a small port and we recognise we have the challenges and opportunities associated with that,” Francis says. “We’re actively taking steps to address these challenges and maximise our opportunities. In my view, that is what sets us apart from other ports in terms of operational culture. We see our geographic location as a big advantage and we are actively putting in place arrangements to capitalise on that.”
The Ports Authority’s efforts aim to maximize quality and value for money in all its services, always working to keep its operations cost-effective, efficient and streamlined without compromising on standards.
This means operating safely with particular regards to ensuring compliance with international conventions, legislation, policies and procedures, but it also means maintaining the ports’ existing buildings, plants, equipment and facilities in a safe and serviceable way.
However, while the Turks and Caicos Islands’ geographic position presents many opportunities, it also brings challenges, particularly as the global climate events seem to be becoming ever more volatile.
“The gravest challenge we face right now is that we’re located in a hurricane zone, as most of the Caribbean is,” Jones admits. “We’ve had major hurricanes in 2017, affecting all the ports, so we’re rehabilitating those ports but at the same time also looking at the resilience of port infrastructure.”
That preparation is a continuous process, or as Jones laments, “We often say you’re either in the hurricane season or preparing for the hurricane season. The frequency and intensity of climatic events is something we have to take into consideration in all of our plans as it has stretched our ability to mobilise resources.”
Currently, that preparation is taking the form of a major renovation of port infrastructure.
“Our port infrastructure has aged and we’re planning a major redevelopment of the main port at Providenciales, while also refurbishing ports on Grand Turk and South Caicos. The port on North Caicos is also poised for improvement. We just need to mobilise the funding and take into consideration how the changes in climate affect our needs,” Francis explains. “The ports are being well constructed, taking climate change into account.”
A Motivated Workforce
However, ports aren’t only made of buildings, and Francis is adamant that the most important resource the Ports Authority has is its people.
“You have to make sure you have a knowledgeable, highly motivated workforce who can respond to these challenges,” he says. “We have prescribed a lot of training in terms of security and safety. You need ongoing training which means you have to have trainers on staff or the resources to bring trainers in. You’re preparing for the security, safety or even a climatic event that you hope never happens, with the drills and preparation so you’re always ready to respond.”
As well as thorough training the Ports Authority also ensures that success is rewarded.
“What you also want to do is have the staff motivated with good staff policies and procedures, applied consistently, with good incentives,” Francis says. “For instance, we have Security Employee of the Quarter, Employee of the Year and we use social media platforms to highlight the staff’s achievements and results.”
And those achievements are going to be ever more important moving forward.
“Ports are integral to the development of their respective islands, facilitating trade and shipping while supporting the community,” Francis says. “If environmental conservation is an issue we want to be a part of that, supporting those communities in these kinds of endeavours. We want to be part and parcel of those communities, being responsive to their needs. The critical thing is by the end of the next three to four years we are certainly aiming to have a completely rebuilt port infrastructure that can support and develop our trusts with a number of capital projects ongoing. We’re a statutory body and the government is formulating a ‘Vision 2040’ with a strong role for the Ports Authority, so we’re ensuring we can be fully supportive of the Government’s vision for the country.”