Carib Cement ends production

KINGSTON, Jamaica – News of Carib Cement Company ceasing production at its Rockfort plant in east Kingston Tuesday has triggered fears of a major fallout in the construction industry.

Hard-hit by revelations of faulty cement on the market, the company said that it suspended production Monday until Friday when certain test results will be released.

“The suspension of deliveries is a precautionary measure that is being taken by the company to ensure that the highest quality product reaches the market,” said Lystra Sharp, the company’s public relations officer, yesterday.

Carib Cement pledged that it would publicise a preliminary report on the quality issue by tomorrow.

“The general investigation was concluded on Friday as previously stated. However, the experts felt that there was a need to conduct additional detailed laboratory tests and are awaiting the results of these,” Ms. Sharp explained.

Earlier this month reports surfaced that 500 tonnes of faulty cement entered the market in late February. Subsequently, the company recalled cement manufactured between February 19 and 27.

The disclosure of substandard cement on the market has resulted in a shortage that has stalled several major projects across the island. Speaking at a meeting in Montego Bay yesterday, executive director of Jamaica Cricket 2007, Robert Bryan, said while the situation was not yet at panic stage, his organisation is still concerned.

“It is impacting the work now taking place at both Sabina Park and greenfield (Rock, Trelawny),” said Mr. Bryan. “We are not yet in a crisis mode but we are really concerned about the situation and we are watching it closely.”

If the Jamaican facilities are not ready in time for the Cricket World Cup, the tournament will be switched to one of the other eight territories hosting games.

Meanwhile, work on the new Half-Way Tree Transportation Centre has come to a halt, said Leo McEwan, public relations officer at the Ministry of Transport and Works.

“We have had to demolish four columns since tests revealed they were fragile because of inferior cement quality,” Mr. McEwan said.

The Incorporated Masterbuilders’ Association of Jamaica noted that the construction industry has suffered substantial losses. He said it will have an adverse effect on the $800 million the construction industry contributes annually to gross domestic product.

“Major companies have started closing and laying off of workers,” said Don Mullings, immediate past president of the IMAJ.

Mr. Mullings added that the industry is losing a staggering US$2.3 million “per calendar day”.

Raymond Cooper, vice-president of the IMAJ, confirmed this claim. He told The Gleaner that the construction industry employs about 100,000 skilled workers and labourers, paying an average of $1,500 per day.

Mr. Cooper said that it will take sometime before normality returns to the sector. “There is now a huge pent-up demand for cement and concrete and it will take weeks for normality to return,” he emphasised.

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