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Ship repair company partners with CMU

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GERMAN Ship Repair Jamaica Limited (GSRJ) has partnered with Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) to undertake its skills training programme, aimed at increasing employment in the logistics and maritime industries.

Speaking with JIS News, public relations and human resource manager at GSRJ, Dr Birte Timm, pointed out that the two-year training programme entails theory and apprenticeship components covering aspects of ship repair and welding.

“This training initiative is stemming from the fact that there is no ship repair industry in Jamaica at present. The closest facilities available are in Curaao and The Bahamas, which primarily attract the cruise vessels, but for the container ships for which Jamaica is one of the main destinations in the region as a trans-shipment port, we have no skill sets readily available in Jamaica that are required to work on those huge container vessels,” Dr Timm noted.

She said that the 20 participants in the programme have already covered a year and a half of training in ship repair and welding.

“We are now offering welding and will soon add mechanical engineering and machine repair as the next competences, with considerations to be given to painting, refurbishing and carpentry as areas to offer in the future,” Dr Timm said.

She explained that the German Dual Apprenticeship Model has been applied to the training programme, with focus on an apprenticeship component while rolling out the theory.

“So, while they are doing the theory, they have a programme of two years in which the apprentice will spend at least 50 per cent at the employer getting on-the-job training and learning from those persons who are already versatile in that area,” Dr Timm said.

“It is impossible to learn it from a theoretical perspective as you cannot learn how to repair ships, how to weld huge ship parts together in theory; but you have to be guided by people who have learnt the trade, doing this for many, many years,” she informed.

Emphasising the importance of skills training and labour, she noted that there has to be a rethinking and rebranding around skill, how skills training is carried out, what it means to be a skilled and certified craftsman, and how these persons are sought after internationally.

“In Germany, there is a great respect for skills training, skilled labour and trade, so after a person goes through the apprenticeship programme for two years, they get a very valuable certificate. And these people are not just handymen, they are technical experts, and from this position they move up in their companies and continue to grow their expertise and have very well-paid jobs,” Dr Timm pointed out.

She said further that the intention of GSRJ to build a ship repair facility in Kingston Harbour is to boost employment and introduce the country to viable economic activities in the shipping and maritime industry.

The training programme, she noted, will, therefore, build the capacity and establish a pool of skilled persons locally to work at the ship repair facility, instead of having to recruit from overseas.

“In order for a logistics hub to be successful, it is very critical that the Government support these types of training initiatives, and we have reached out to the Government and the Special Economic Zone authority and both institutions have been very supportive in assisting us in developing this scheme,” Dr Timm said.

“We are presently entering discussions as to how this programme can be offered on a larger, national scale, how we can engage other industry partners, and how they can come on board and benefit from a similar type of apprenticeship programme,” she added.

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Banana threat

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EXCEPT for those in the agricultural sector, most Jamaicans have no idea what Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc) Tropical Race 4 (or TR4) is, and can’t imagine its potentially devastating effects on the island’s banana and plantain crops.

The Banana Board is only too aware of the far-reaching impact of the soil-borne pathogen, and has therefore ramped up its public relations and awareness activities to alert farmers and other stakeholders.

At the moment, what it needs most is funding to conduct simulation exercises in order to be fully and practically prepared for the management of the disease, in the event that TR4 reaches Jamaica’s shores.

“With the spread of Foc TR4 to the Western Hemisphere for the first time, preventative measures, such as widespread public awareness, in addition to other border protection initiatives, provision of emergency resources, and the simulation exercise for containment of the disease are now extremely necessary,” the commodity board said this week.

With TR4 having reached Colombia, The Banana Board’s concern is the immediate threat of the plant disease spreading from that South American country to the island.

General Manager Janet Conie says this can happen via various means, including from people’s clothing, and even construction equipment.

“We need a wider programme that speaks to everybody who goes to another country…especially agricultural workers, scientists, vets (etc), who go into agricultural areas where the disease is…they could bring it back on their shoes, on their clothes. So we need to now widen our public relations…we need posters in the airports.

“In Colombia and Costa Rica they have mats at each one of the gates, and your shoes are disinfected, [but] we also need to tell all travellers that any shoes that you wear in those places that are infected, you cannot bring them back here. We need to speak to Customs and the Trade Board for them to help us with implementing things like containers and earth-moving equipment that comes from China – those equipment have to be treated,” she explained.

She stressed that TR4 must be seen as an important issue, as 98 per cent of Jamaicans consume bananas, and about 64,000 farmers grow bananas for income.

“Whether they have one square that they sell every weekend, they still get a livelihood from it…so it’s not something that we can likely lose, and we really shouldn’t lose our banana industry and then have to import,“ she said.

Conie pointed out that Ecuador, for example, treats one million containers annually, in order to safeguard their multibillion-dollar banana industry.

“Ecuador and Costa Rica have banned material that come into their country, whether it’s a mat or a hat, or whatever — banana goes out, nothing comes in,” she stated.

The general manager argued that it is not only the formal ports that need to be safeguarded as Jamaica seeks to protect its banana industry, which has taken a number of hits over the years.

“We have informal traders, so we have to talk to the coast guard about not just looking for drugs, but contraband, like banana plants. So we have a lot of work to do to interact with the agencies to help us to keep this disease out,” she said.

She said the plant quarantine division of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries is critical in all of this, as well as the ministry’s other agencies, including the Trade Board Limited.

A conversation, although broad, and one in which the link to the banana industry and the deadly TR4 may not be immediately apparent, has already begun internally at the ministry level.

Foc TR4 is a deadly disease of banana and plantain crops which is resistant to fungicides. This is the fourth strain of the disease, the first strain of which largely obliterated the most dominant variety of banana — Gros Michel — in the 1950s.

Tropical Race 4 is even more deadly. This is because all varieties of bananas and plantains are susceptible, including the cavendish group which replaced the Gros Michel, as well as the most commercially used variety of plantains in Jamaica, Conie told the Jamaica Observer.

“If you see any wilt on Cavendish, that is a big red flag — that’s when you call us,” she said.

Despite the looming spectre of TR4, the banana industry has been doing very well in the wake of the battering from natural disasters over the years, Conie said.

Last year, farmers produced 67,000 tonnes of bananas and 49,000 tonnes of plantains — not enough to meet demand for commercial quantities.

Conie noted that, at the same time, the country imported US$900 million in chips products. Other by-products such as flour and puree are also imported.

In the meantime, until the funding becomes available to back the simulation programme, The Banana Board has been conducting a series of consultations with banana farmers and other stakeholders who are at the forefront of banana production, about protecting the industry from the disease.

Conie said that for now, farmers should treat as a red flag any sign of a wilt on any plant, and report it for investigation.

The general manager said, however, that while the industry remains on alert, the way forward is to seek out and introduce resistant or tolerant varieties, as was done when the first strain of the disease hit.

She said right now, there are no commercial varieties that are “readily accepted” by the market, because of the difference in taste.

Connie clarified though that, “we are not saying that people must accept these varieties that are less than what the market would demand, but from a food security standpoint, we need to make sure that we have a variety that we can use”.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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Saudi Arabia eases travel restrictions on women

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Saudi Arabia eases travel restrictions on women

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) — Saudi Arabia yesterday began implementing a landmark reform allowing women over the age of 21 to receive passports and travel abroad without permission from a male “guardian”, authorities said.

The reform, announced earlier this month, weakens the restrictive guardianship system that has long been a symbol of repression against women.

“The passport department has started receiving applications for women aged 21 and above to issue or renew passports and to travel outside the kingdom without permission,” the department said on Twitter.

Women in the kingdom have long required permission from their male “guardians” — husband, father and other male relatives — for these tasks, a restriction that drew international censure.

The reform comes after high-profile attempts by women to escape alleged guardianship abuse despite a string of reforms by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, including a landmark decree last year that overturned the world’s only ban on women drivers.

In other changes unveiled earlier this month, Saudi women were also granted the right to officially register childbirth, marriage or divorce and to be recognised as a guardian to children who are minors —same as men.

The reforms were widely celebrated in the kingdom, but they also drew backlash from arch-conservatives, many of whom shared old video sermons on social media by Saudi clerics advocating guardianship laws.

Some also denounced the change as “unIslamic” in a society that traditionally sees men as protectors of women.

The reform comes as the OPEC petroleum producer reels from low oil prices and seeks to boost employment opportunities for women — currently facing chronic joblessness.

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26-year-old determined to preserve Jamaica’s cultural heritage

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26-year-old determined to preserve Jamaica’s cultural heritage

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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More than 220 Jamaicans have been awarded Chevening Scholarships since it was first introduced in 1983. Chevening is the United Kingdom Government’s global scholarship programme that offers future leaders the opportunity to study in the UK. This year, 19 outstanding young Jamaicans were selected for the scholarships. Over this week the Jamaica Observer will share the stories of some of the 2019-2020 awardees.

 

IT was Jamaica’s first National Hero Marcus Garvey who said: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots,” and this holds true for 2019/2020 Chevening Scholarship awardee Chantelle Richardson.

A special collections librarian at National Library of Jamaica (NLJ), Richardson will be undertaking a research-based fellowship on digitised archival material from Latin America and the Caribbean at The British Library.

When she completes her course of study, the 26-year-old, who is from Manchester, is determined to use her expertise to aid in the digital preservation of several Jamaican maps, manuscripts, newspapers, and photographs that are an integral part of the country’s rich cultural heritage.

“I am extremely passionate about preserving the nation’s irreplaceable cultural heritage, and I plan on using the knowledge and skills gained from the fellowship to tangibly digitise material unique to Jamaica and the world,” said Richardson, who describes herself as an avid reader and lover of all things Jamaican.

One of the major deliverables of this fellowship opportunity is to identify and liaise with a local partner institution to manage an Eccles Centre for American Studies-funded conference.

The theme of the conference will be based on Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) content, and will also include an element of training on applying to EAP for funding.

“I believe this will prove an essential step in helping to provide the necessary training for local bodies who manage cultural emblems,” Richardson stressed.

She also highlighted the fact that the NLJ houses the most extensive newspaper collection in the region, dating back to the 1700s, and the information on those pages is vital to the understanding of how life was in the past and how it can be made better for the future.

According to Richardson, the fellowship will also help to improve access to many resources housed at the NLJ and other regional institutions, through digitisation.

Richardson sees Chevening as an excellent medium through which young leaders, like herself, can come together to make meaningful changes in the society.

“My long-term objective is to aid the generation coming up to have a better appreciation for the contribution made by our forefathers and to actively engage in activities that will improve their lives.

“Upon returning to my country I also plan to execute a three-year developmental plan, which will engage persons in the library and information field, my community, and the wider society to improve the preservation of archival materials. In addition to the funded conference with training components, I will also strive to have information sessions, webinars, and social media campaigns aimed at preserving our cultural legacy,” said Richardson.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive

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