The GraceKennedy Foundation (GKF) has announced that it is collaborating with The Ocean Cleanup, and Clean Harbours Jamaica (CHJ) Limited to implement a pilot project to prevent waste from entering the Kingston Harbour. The pilot project between GKF, CHJ and the Dutch non-profit environmental organisation whose mission is to rid the oceans of plastic, involves the installation of an Interceptor Barrer to trap debris that flows from Kingston’s gullies into the Harbour. The project is being funded by the Benioff Foundation and The Ocean Cleanup.

Through its local partner and operator, CHJ, The Ocean Cleanup has fitted Interceptor Barriers at three of the 11 gullies that feed into the Harbour – Kingston Pen Gully, Barnes Gully and Rae Town Gully – to trap the waste. Debris will be removed from the Interceptor Barriers by The Ocean Cleanup’s Interceptor Tender – a small, self-propelled barge. Debris will then be transported to an offloading site for sorting and proper disposal.

The GKF is optimistic about this latest initiative to address the solid waste pollution challenges faced in the Kingston Harbour. Caroline Mahfood, CEO of GKF noted, “This effort is expected to eventually extract an estimated 900 metric tons of waste a year, once installations in all 11 gullies have been completed, and we are pleased to help facilitate The Ocean Cleanup and CHJ in achieving this mammoth task. This partnership is very much aligned with the theme of our 2019 GK annual lecture which explored bringing back the former glory of the Kingston Harbour, as it was in the 1950s and 1960s. We look forward to the day when we can see the natural environment of our beautiful Harbour restored and re-establish it as a key contributor to Jamaican food security and an exemplar of sustainable growth.”

The Ocean Cleanup’s Interceptor Tender inspects the Interceptor Barrier at the mouth of the Barnes Gully in the Kingston Harbour. Debris will be removed from the Interceptor Barriers installed at the mouths of the Kingston Pen Gully, Barnes Gully and Rae Town Gully by the Interceptor Tender – a small, powered barge that will collect the trash. The Interceptor Barriers are a pilot project being implemented by The Ocean Cleanup in collaboration with the GraceKennedy Foundation, Clean Harbours Jamaica Limited and several other public and private sector partners.

Mrs Mahfood acknowledged the economic importance of the Kingston Harbour as a regional transhipment hub with many people depending directly and indirectly on it and its resources for their survival. The GKF-funded; James S. Moss-Solomon Sr. Chair in Environmental Studies at The University of the West Indies, Prof. Mona Webber, who has carried out extensive research on the Harbour’s natural environment has lamented for years about the deterioration of the natural resource over many decades.

“Discharge from ships, industrial waste, pollutants from fertilizers and pesticides, a substantial amount of domestic waste from residences in the densely populated Kingston Metropolitan Area, including sewage, contribute considerably to the pollution of the Harbour. Improper solid waste disposal practices in Kingston also result in high volumes of litter (mostly plastics) along the Harbour’s shoreline, especially in its mangroves. In addition to the high levels of pollution, over the years Kingston Harbour has also been impacted by the removal of several hundred hectares of mangroves along Hunts Bay and the Kingston waterfront,” Webber observed.

Dr Fred Kennedy, GKF Chairman, called the new initiative a game-changer for the Foundation in its role as the project’s facilitator. He noted that the GraceKennedy Group, parent company of the Foundation, which this year celebrates 100 years of operation in downtown Kingston, remains dedicated to the preservation and development of the Harbour, which is key to the survival and growth of the surrounding communities. He quoted former GraceKennedy CEO and Chairman S. Carlton Alexander who said, “What is good for Jamaica, is good for GraceKennedy.”

Mrs Mahfood explained that in its role as facilitator, GKF is partnering with several private and public sector entities as well as community-based organisations. The Foundation will draw on its decades of experience with community projects to support The Ocean Cleanup in achieving its objectives.

Aerial shot of the Interceptor Barrier at the mouth of the Rae Town Gully in the Kingston Harbour. The Rae Town Interceptor Barrier is one of three which has been installed at the mouth of gullies that feed into the Harbour. The Interceptor Barriers are a pilot project being implemented by The Ocean Cleanup in collaboration with the GraceKennedy Foundation, Clean Harbours Jamaica Limited and several other public and private sector partners.

GKF has been instrumental in sensitizing and engaging the support of several key government stakeholders without whose support the project could not have been possible. Mrs Mahfood highlighted and thanked the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), the National Environment Planning Agency (NEPA), Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC), Urban Development Corporation (UDC), National Land Agency (NLA), National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), the Office of the Prime Minister, the former Ministry of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and the Jamaica Customs Agency for their support. In the private sector, Mona Geoinformatics Institute (MGI) is providing environmental profiling, data and field monitoring support through hydro-meteorological mapping, footage of gullies, garbage stockpile assessments, while Recycling Partners of Jamaica will be collecting the plastic from the Interceptor’s offloading site and has provided a financial contribution to the associated operations. Mahfood also thanked Spectrum Roofing, The JPS Foundation and the East Kingston and Port Royal constituency executive for providing their in-kind support during the set-up of operations.

Through their partnership with The Ocean Cleanup and CHJ, GKF aims to encourage and facilitate sustainable investment in a clean Kingston Harbour – a task that will require the engagement of all stakeholders.

“We thank residents of the communities surrounding the Harbour for their support. Sensitization work has already begun and will continue. The fishers at the Rae Town Fishing Village have been providing guidance to the project team, which is critical to the success of the project. We are delighted and encouraged by the warm welcome this project has received from all stakeholders and invite others from the private sector to join us in supporting this important initiative,” said Mrs Mahfood.