Field Notes Jamaica

Flying into Kingston is a breathtaking sight.

The Jamaican government is working to transform the Port of Kingston into a Global Logistics Hub to attract new trade investments and improve the country’s economy. But as opportunity for trade expands, risks also grow. Among them, the supply chain could be misused — diverting potentially dangerous materials to create a weapon of mass destruction. With support from Global Affairs Canada's WMD Threat Reduction program, Stimson experts Brian Finlay and Lovely Umayam recently completed a major project in Kingston — and saw firsthand the challenges and opportunities facing Jamaica.

These are their field notes.

Kingston's shoreline is an overlooked hallmark of economic development for Jamaica.

Instead of attracting tourists, it serves as a place of convergence for many ships from all over the world.

But a port only sees a fraction of the action since it is one node out of an entire supply chain for a given product.

A supply chain is comprised of various nodes...

With each responsible for carrying out intricate tasks and interactions... ensure that the product smoothly flows from one node to another until it reaches its final destination.

Security is a critical factor in supply chain logistics, especially when handling “dual-use” items. If these items fall in the wrong hands, they can be sold illegally, or worse, used for nefarious means — such as developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Oftentimes security is perceived as an impediment to supply chain efficiency because of added regulations, redundant checks, and extra steps.

In our project, we want to illustrate that security and efficiency are complementary — not competing — concepts.

We interviewed people involved in the chemical supply chain in Jamaica. We were particularly interested in the imports and exports of “dual-use” precursor chemicals, which have industrial uses (for detergents and lubricants) but also dangerous applications (such as to make chemical weapons).

We asked: how do personnel in each node within the supply chain balance operational efficiency and security? Do existing security measures muck up the process and impede business?

After interviewing 50 individuals — from freight forwarders, truckers, customs officials to high-level government representatives — we compared notes and developed process maps that visually tell the tale of the dual-use chemical supply chain in Jamaica.

The process took many days since perspectives on how the nodes interacted within the supply chain did not always match perfectly. We had gaps and sometimes conflicting narratives, which forced us to return to our sources to clarify. But once finished, we had 18 process maps that illustrated where operational efficiency and security gaps could be addressed.

We could not have pieced this information together without local engagement.

We worked with the Caribbean Maritime Institute to present our findings to the Kingston community. One of our recommendations is to streamline the front-end of the supply chain — the import/export permit application and approval process — such that the imports and exports of dual-use chemical items are reported and accounted for.

Providing clear guidance on what types of dual-use chemicals need what type of permits will also save importers and exporters time, energy, and money. Through our presentation, we illustrated how security and operational efficiency have a mutually beneficial relationship.

We also had the opportunity to present our work to students at the Caribbean Maritime Institute. We invited them to apply this approach to other supply chains of interest.

The Institute agreed to develop a graduate-level curriculum to teach students our methodology. We hope that they carry on the lessons beyond their education and into their careers as tradesmen and maritime security specialists.

At the root of this project's success are strong local partnerships. It is clear that preventing WMD proliferation can have a positive impact on local trade — and the lessons learned in Jamaica are applicable in countries around the world. Building on this experience, our work continues to keep some of the world's most dangerous materials from falling into the wrong hands.

Innovative Ideas Changing the World

Learn more about Stimson's efforts to close supply chain loopholes to prevent the spread of WMD


Created with images by Lovely Umayam • Brian Finlay • FHG Photo • S.A. Street Photographer - "Sunny Jamaica" • asherfoster - "North coast of Kingston, Jamaica"

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