Robert Hamaty was born in Savannah La Mar in the Parish of Westmoreland, Jamaica. He first came to the Cayman Islands in 1978, he said, as a pilot for Air Jamaica. Indeed, at the age of 24 he was the youngest airline captain there.
“Then I joined Cayman Airways as a captain,” he said.
As well as his interest in aviation, a growing entrepreneurial spirit led to Captain Hamaty and his wife Carlene setting up the Tortuga Rum Company in 1984. The intent was to introduce Cayman Islands rums to the ever-growing cruise business with an eye on Cayman’s tourism development. Later in the 1980s, the first duty-free liquor Tortuga store was opened and Carlene Hamaty – originally of Savannah, Cayman Islands – took an old family recipe, added Tortuga gold rum and created the famous Tortuga Rum cake, which is now shipped to over 70 countries worldwide. Bakeries are franchised in Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas. Among his many honours, Mr. Hamaty was named 2001 Caribbean Entrepreneur of the Year in Trinidad and was recognised in the field of tourism, hospitality and manufacturing for his innovative business strategy in creating a unique success story. He served as the Jamaican Honorary Consul for the Cayman Islands for 16 years. The Hamatys were recognised in 2008 with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Culinary Excellence at the Jamaica Observer Food Awards in Kingston Jamaica.
Mr. Hamaty served as chairman of the Cayman Islands Port Improvement and Beautification Committee from 2001 to 2004 and is a founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Cruise Tourism. He also is a founding member of both the Jamaican and Cayman Airline pilots associations.
He was educated at Jamaica College (1958-1964) and the Embry Riddle Aeronautical Institute, Daytona Beach, Florida (1965-1966). He has two grown children, a son Basil, who is a captain for Cayman Airways and a daughter, Monique Simmonds, who with her husband Marcus run the Tortuga Rum Cake Company, handling worldwide distribution, mail order, food service and online sales from Miami, Florida.
Mr. Hamaty said that he still keeps abreast with all that is happening in the Jamaican community as well as wearing several hats during his day-to-day running of the Tortuga company’s many different arms. So what message does he have for this auspicious year?
“I congratulate Jamaica on the 50th anniversary and am looking forward to the 50th celebration as well as the Olympics. What a great thing it would be if they do as well as they did in Beijing. There is a large group of athletes going to London including the two fastest men in the world.
“Jamaica has done very well in the sports and the community is very proud of them. I will be watching the Olympics to celebrate as well as attending some of the functions happening here in the Cayman Islands. I wish the country and the Jamaican community here all the very best,” he said.