Who we are


Kingston Wharves Limited- In the beginning

It all began 17 years before Jamaica gained its independence.  The year was 1945. It was a time of pound, shilling and pence; World War II had ended and the novelty of radio broadcasting had not yet worn off (which began in 1939).  It was the year that Sir Alexander Bustamante became Jamaica’s first Premier and the great reggae icon Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley was born.

It was also the beginning of Kingston Wharves Limited.

Since Jamaica’s history has always highlighted the importance, advantages and effectiveness of sea transport and with the increasing demand for merchants and trade and more importantly the shipping industry’s ability to positively impact a growing economy, the establishment of this company synchronized with the shipping culture of the Jamaican society and was certainly positioned to secure itself in the region and on the world trade market.

Downtown Kingston was, at the time the place chosen for Kingston Wharves’ operations, which began with the four piers at Princess, Orange, Hanover and East Streets.  By 1963, 12 berths were incorporated into the company’s operations.  After a while however, it became quite obvious that this location was not suitable to accommodate the volume of cargo and human traffic.  These were the days before the application of modern technology and the only way to transport goods was by utilizing pallets, crates and boxes, and of course this meant employing thousands of manpower to handle the job.

Before long, that section of downtown Kingston was bombarded with cargo, workers and customers.  This also has to be seen within the context that downtown Kingston has always been the commercial center.  So, on the one hand, the old finger piers were literally bursting at the seams and on the other, the city’s growing commercial potentials showed no signs of slowing down.

In addition, it was also observed that the safety of goods being transported was being compromised.  The question of durability, security and longevity of products demanded quick solutions that would not negatively affect the integrity of the company.  It was around this time that containerization was introduced. And with this introduction, the relevant equipment to handle these containers would also have to be applied.

It was clear to all that this port had outgrown downtown Kingston and it was no longer adequate for a company of this nature, especially if the intention was to expand and develop.   The western end of the Kingston Harbour seemed the ideal place for the relocation and in 1964 the decision was made to do just that. Port Bustamante was then created at Newport West.  Port Bustamante which of course was named after the Hon. Alexander Bustamante, became a reality after successful negotiations with the government instigated and spearheaded by Luis Fred Kennedy, Charles DaCosta and Moses Matalon.

The first move for KWL was to purchase 56 acres of land and begin the development in phases.  In the first phase, three berths were to be completed by 1966 at a cost of approximately 2.2 million pounds and in the second phase which should be completed by 1970, there would be an additional four berths costing approximately 3 million pounds.

The vision at the time was to establish the most modern port in the Caribbean.  This new port was first occupied by Western Terminal Limited, owners of berths 1 and 4; then in 1966 Kingston Wharves Limited became operational at its new location with berths 5 to 9.  In the early 1970s, a transshipment port was added. The Government had purchased land from Kingston Wharves Limited in order to establish this facility which was then constructed on berths 10 and 11.  The management of this transshipment facility was awarded to KWL in 1972 which they managed until 2001 when a Danish company took over the responsibility.

Like any other business or industry, the shipping industry is never without its share of challenges.  During the 1970s this was quite evident at Port Bustamante.  And with the fierce competition and proposals for greater expansions, there was a need for a regulatory body that had the power to intervene when necessary.   The Government therefore took a decision to establish the Port Authority of Jamaica that would now oversee all ports and wharves in Jamaica.

With the Port Authority  in place, concerns were highlighted as to the efficiency of operations, the economic considerations and the company’s strategies for sustainability.   These concerns, inter alia, prompted the merger between Kingston Wharves Limited and Western Terminals Limited in 1994.  And under the new Kingston Wharves Limited, the company went public and in 1995 was listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange.

The expansion over the years has resulted in Kingston Wharves now as a group of companies.  With 1600 meters of berthing space and 22 hectares of open storage, with 30,000 sq. meters of covered warehousing and cold storage, the group consists of Kingston Wharves Limited that has the direct responsibility for terminal operations; Security Administrators Limited that deals with port security services; Harbour Cold Stores for cold storage and cold storage equipment installation and Western Storage and Western Terminals that handles property rentals.

Kingston Wharves Limited is quite appropriately described as a multi-purpose terminal.  The nine deepwater berths can comfortably accommodate containers, Ro-Ro, break-bulk and bulk shipping services. For those who are not in the shipping business, the magnitude of the import/export process is often taken for granted.  For instance, many cannot visualize a ship that on the inside looks like a huge ‘multi-level parking garage’ that transports hundreds and sometimes thousands of cars, trucks and heavy duty construction equipment. Now just think of the mammoth task of being held accountable for this entire process.  Adding to its multi-purpose capabilities, in 2004 KWL began offering stevedoring services which have helped tremendously to increase customer satisfaction while improving the company’s  profit margin.

The significance of the level of operations that take place at Kingston Wharves Limited is not lost on the region or the world at large. It is seen as one of the largest and most experienced wharves in the English speaking Caribbean.

To understand the journey, is to fully appreciate the company’s accomplishments.   Since its inception in 1945 until 2003, and long before selling its 43.97% shareholding to National Commercial Bank (NCB) in 2004, Grace Kennedy and Co. Limited managed the entire operations at KWL.  Now with a new management team in place, there is an injection of renewed energies for further growth and development.

Kingston Wharves Limited has grown tremendously from the days of crates and boxes with as much as 6000 workers to embracing the technological era in all its glory, and on its way to becoming a paperless port with a staff of 200.

Through the challenges of the past, Kingston Wharves Limited has garnered the knowledge and practical experience to face those of tomorrow. The company understands the implications of success to the country’s economical growth and development and has therefore embraced its responsibility to continue to incorporate effective strategies that can encourage sustainable success.

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Founded in 1945, Kingston Wharves Limited (KWL) is one of the Caribbean’s leading multipurpose terminal operators.

Listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, with net assets of US$ 54 million, the Company has experienced steady growth and boasts a steady profit stream with a high proportion of retained earning ploughed back into the business.

Kingston Wharves Limited operates a terminal in Port Bustamante, just east and adjoining Kingston Container Terminal. A continuous quay nearly 1,600 meters long provides nine deepwater berths for ro-ro, lo-lo,container, general break bulk and bulk shipping services.

The 25 hectare terminal offers 22 hectare of open storage with 30,000 square meters of covered warehousing and cold storage.   The company also has 53, 000 square meters of secure off-dock storage for motor vehicles.

The Company operates 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Its highly trained staff and comprehensive range of terminal equipment, including three Gottwald mobile harbour cranes, are available to perform the most demanding stevedoring functions. Modern terminal management software maximizes the efficiency of wharf and warehouse operations. The Company utilizes handheld and vehicle mounted computers together with Tideworks yard management software, which has lead to a reduction in vessel turn-around.   These devices have also enhanced yard management operations and lead to more accurate inventory control.

KWL subsidiaries include Harbour Cold Stores Ltd, a public cold storage facility; and Security Administrators Ltd, providing security services at the port of Kingston, Montego Bay and Port Antonio.

Committed to continual improvement, Kingston Wharves Ltd has made substantial investments in the past five years upgrading the terminal’s infrastructure and administrative operations. The Company’s modernization programme includes dredging the harbour, which will give rise to deeper drafts, in order to accommodate larger vessels. KWL will then be in a better position to take advantage of marketing opportunities presented by the anticipated growth in international trade and the domestic economy.

Kingston Wharves Limited (KWL) is the Caribbean’s leading Multi-purpose Port Terminal Operator, providing the Region’s importers and exporters with a broad range of cargo handling and logistics services and connections to over 20 international ports in the Caribbean, Latin and North America.

ACHIEVEMENT KWL is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades for excellence:
  • Best in Chamber Nominee 2011 – Jamaica Chamber of Commerce
  • Growth & Development Awardee for 2010 – Caribbean Shipping Association (CSA)
  • Most Efficient Port awardee for 2010 and 2008 – CSA
  • ‘Multi-purpose Terminal of the Year’ Award for 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2013 – CSA

A listed company on the Jamaica Stock Exchange with net assets of US$119.91 million, the KWL Group has experienced steady growth through prudent management and a commitment to continuous improvement that has ensured competitiveness, since its inception in 1945. In addition to its core business of terminal operations, the KWL Group also owns and operates an industrial and port security services firm, Security Administrators Limited.


The port terminal provides a full-range cargo handling and logistics services 24- hours per day, 7 days per week, including:

  • Mooring and Unmooring of Vessels
  • Stevedoring
  • Equipment Rental
  • Stripping and Stuffing of Containers
  • Storage and Warehousing

KWL’s transshipment service has achieved exponential growth over the last decade.

  • Two of the Region’s premier shipping lines utilize KWL’s terminal as their transshipment hub, operating weekly feeder services to Caribbean and Latin American Ports.
  • The regional transshipment hub for one of the world’s leading motor vehicle carriers is managed by KWL, the first direct service of its kind from Europe to Jamaica.

Strategically located on the Port of Kingston 17058’W, 76048’N.

  • Continuous Quay measuring 1,655 metres (5,430 feet)
  • 9 Deepwater Berths for ro-ro, lo-lo, container, general break bulk and bulk cargoes
  • Vessel Draft 9 metres (29 feet) to 13 metres (32 feet)
  • On-Dock Open Storage: Approximately 242,000 square metres or 2,605,000 square feet
  • On-Dock Transshipment Car Park: 48,562 square metres or 522, 720 square feet
  • On-Dock Warehouse Storage: 21,225 square metres or 228,000 square feet.
  • Off-Dock Storage: 20,000 square metres or 215,000 square feet
  • Reefer Plugs: 173 at 440 Volts

The Equipment & Supporting Systems include:

  • 4 – Gottwald Mobile Harbour Cranes
  • 14 – Reach Stackers
  • 1 – Empty Container Handlers
  • 1 – Toploaders
  • 15 – Trucks
  • 15 – Bomb Carts
  • 1 – Terberg Tug Master
  • Tideworks Terminal Management System

In addition to these resources, we are able to source additional chassis, trucks, trailers and forklifts, upon request

  • 200,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs)
  • 1.4 Million tonnes Domestic Tonnage
  • 50,000 Motor Units Moves

Jamaica is positioned to take advantage of the PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION. Based on its strategic location in the Caribbean, it is predicted that the expansion will bring increased business to Jamaica, especially in transshipment, logistics and value-added services. KWL is committed to expanding its service capacity, competitive advantage and reach as a global Lead Logistics Provider. We have designed and commenced roll-out of a comprehensive set of strategic upgrades to our equipment and facilities, charting a steady course of action for our future growth and development.