Brief History

Port Royal is located to the south of the country’s capital Kingston and the Kingston Harbour, the seventh largest natural harbour in the world. Its immediate area extends for some 200 acres to the tip of the Palisadoes. In 1692, a severe earthquake and tidal wave struck and a large portion of the town was devastated. Prior to the earthquake Port Royal had 51 acres of land however after that earthquake only 18 remained. 20 acres sank 10 feet and is now the sunken city while 13 acres slid 35 feet into the Kingston Harbour. The actual town centre, including most of the historical buildings, is 30 acres in area.

The Spanish originally colonized Port Royal, when it was known as Port Caguay. In 1655 it was attacked and captured by the English and later renamed Port Royal in 1660. After capture by the English, Fort Charles on the harbour was operational and formidable; however, the smaller forts throughout the town had limited assigned personnel and were not capable of truly defending the city in the event of an attack.

The administrators of the town were concerned that the Spanish could retake Jamaica, through Port Royal. Therefore, they began inviting pirates and buccaneers to come and set up their businesses in the town, as assurance that there would be a constant supply of ships and veteran fighting personnel (men).

Once it started to gain fame as a pirate haven, the fortunes of the town quickly changed. It became famous for brothels, taverns and drinking halls. Merchants who were willing to buy goods from pirates, such as Captain Henry Morgan and John “Calico Jack” Rackham soon set up their businesses in the town. Port Royal was then called “the richest and wickedest city in the world”.

After the arrival of the pirates and privateers, Port Royal became the busiest port in the Americas. Their occupation led to other industries and Port Royal became a trading centre for slaves, sugar and other raw materials. During the 17th century, Port Royal was the unofficial capital of Jamaica and the country’s only legal port of entry. Port Royal was also the most important port facility in the Caribbean and the most infamous pirate haunt in the then New World as the town’s merchants controlled the economic affairs of the island.

Port Royal was originally designed to serve as a defensive fortification, guarding the entrance to the harbour, but it assumed much greater importance. “Its location within a well-protected harbour, its flat topography, and deep water close to shore, made it possible for large ships to be serviced easily.” Port Royal was also the main Caribbean base for the Royal Navy until 1905. During its heyday, only Boston, Massachusetts, rivalled Port Royal in size and importance.

Initiative to Redevelop Port Royal

Port Royal has an extensive and diverse history that can be traced to the late 17th century and since 1964, the town has been targeted for major redevelopment. This period of targeted major redevelopment resulted in a number of commissioned Plans to guide the town’s redevelopment. The most recent comprehensive redevelopment Plan, “Port Royal Heritage Centre – Development Proposals for Priority Areas for Tourism, Education, Research & Upgrading” was completed in 2009.

In addition to the 2009 Plan, the UDC did a Redevelopment Plan in 2013 that was twinned Port Royal with downtown Kingston. It is anticipated that this current Plan, “Sustainable Port Royal” will guide the evolution of the town into an urban space that exudes inclusivity, with the basic characteristics and established institutions to ensure good governance, management and maintenance of a healthy natural environment.

It is also noted that physical relics of history, including buildings, are ‘owned’ however, the historic town as an entity is not. It represents ownership to the local community and residents through attachment and belonging.

During the implementation of the redevelopment strategies of this Plan, the stakeholders will be encouraged to respect and empower the approximately 1,300 residents to improve their way of life, while offering opportunities for employment, sustainable economic growth and an improved quality of life.

The development of the floating pier system/Sea Walk by the Port Authority of Jamaica, will result in an increase in the number of persons (tourists and locals) that uses the historic town.

As the world grapples with rapid urban growth and change in users and visitors, historic towns like Port Royal due to the globalization of tourism represents a familiarity that is linked to an ‘idealized’ past in a globalized market of ever-increasing sameness. This can result in tension, between local culture as it is lived and as it is being marketed and perceived by outsiders/visitors.

To ensure that the cultural and physical heritage and environmental resources within the town is protected and enhanced, all activities will be guided by the strategies that are outlined in the accompanying town management plan. These are all be geared towards the sustainable operations of the town.

These strategies are all grounded in principles ninety-nine (99) through to one hundred and one (101), as is stated in the Urban Agenda. The other ratified international and local sustainable development guidelines were also used in the formulation of the strategies.

Urban Agenda Principles

Principle 99

“We will support the implementation of urban planning strategies, as appropriate, that facilitate a social mix through the provision of affordable housing options with access to quality basic services and public spaces for all, enhancing safety and security and favouring social and intergenerational interaction and the appreciation of diversity”.

Principle 100

“We will support the provision of well-designed networks of safe, accessible, green and quality streets and other public spaces that are accessible to all and free from crime and violence, including sexual harassment and gender-based violence, considering the human scale, and measures that allow for the best possible commercial use of street-level floors, fostering both formal and informal local markets and commerce, as well as not-for-profit community initiatives, bringing people into public spaces and promoting walkability and cycling with the goal of improving health and wellbeing”.

Principle 101

“We will integrate disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation considerations and measures into age- and gender-responsive urban and territorial development and planning processes, including greenhouse gas emissions, resilience-based and climate effective design of spaces, buildings and construction, services and infrastructure, and nature based solutions. We will promote cooperation and coordination across sectors and build the capacities of local authorities to develop and implement disaster risk reduction and response plans, such as risk assessments concerning the location of current and future public facilities, and to formulate adequate contingency and evacuation procedures”.

The Plan is being created at a juncture in human history where there are numerous “tipping points” that will affect societal structures and all types of development worldwide. Therefore, it will seek to include mechanisms to address, mitigate and successfully adapt to these challenges, while galvanizing and capitalizing on Port Royal’s importance to overall national development.

In addition to the intent to adhere to and be guided by the Urban Agenda and the varying international policies, guidelines, treaties etc. it’s expected that development planning within Port Royal will be guided by all relevant local legislations, guidelines and policies.

Some of the principal legislations are the Urban Development Corporation Act of 1968, the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) of 1957, the Kingston and St. Andrew Building Act of 1883, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust Act of 1985, the Natural Resources Conservation Act 1991 and the Port Authority Act of 1972.

Redevelopment Goals and Objectives

The redevelopment of Port Royal will be aligned to the goals and objectives that are outlined in the Downtown Kingston & Port Royal Redevelopment Plan, which was completed by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in 2013.
These include:
Arresting physical and social blight within the development area and beyond.
Improving the economic and social conditions of the citizens.

  • Defining the capital city’s status as the seat of government while establishing Port Royals’ well-deserved importance to Jamaica and the world in general.
  • Improving the existing environmentally sensitive infrastructure.
  • Implementing mitigation and adaptation measures to guarantee resilience to natural and anthropogenic climate change.
  • Creating the impetus for public/private investments.
  • Creating an environment that is safe and secured.
    Implementing measures to facilitate open participation of Port Royal residents, citizens at home and in the diaspora, stakeholders etc. in the redevelopment process.
  • Protecting, preserving and promoting the cultural heritage assets for use by present and future generations.
    Protecting & preserving the natural environment.
  • Creating an inclusive and diverse atmosphere with amenities to attract both locals and visitors.

The overarching goal of redeveloping and repositioning Port Royal as a historic tourism town will be focussed on maximum Retention, sensitive Restoration and careful Repair.

Specific Objectives

  • To develop a niche tourism market to include leisure travel, cultural tourism and eco-tourism.
  • To market leisure activities that highlight the area’s unique heritage, culture, culinary, and natural resources.
  • To attract tourism investment to guarantee year-round product offerings that will augment the existing community and visitor assets.
  • Develop existing products, services, and activities to retain residents and keep visitors continually coming back.

Critical Next Steps in Realizing Sustainable Development

1. Housing Survey
The Housing section of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation will be undertaken during the first quarter of FY2019/2020. The result of the survey will guide the level and method of intervention for the town.

2. Strategic Environment Impact Assessment
This study will commence early in FY2019/2020. This assessment will be supported by a carrying capacity study to determine the optimal population that can be sustainably accommodated in the physical space. This is a critical component give the sensitive environment of Port Royal and its environs as well as in receiving and keeping the UNESCO World Heritage Designation that is being sought through the JNHT.

3. Stakeholder Consultations Continuation
The stakeholder consultations will enter a new phase in FY2019/2020 and will include a series of the consultation with the several community groups through the medium of town hall meetings and focus group discussions.

Consultation will include presentations to the Natural Resources Conservation Authority, the Town and Country Planning Authority, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and the Kingston and St. Andrew Municipal Corporation given their mandate within the area as well as their roles granting approval to the final plan.

4. Implementation Plan
A critical component of the final deliverable will be the Implementation plan, which will outline key steps, actions/initiatives, roles and responsibilities, timelines and milestones to implement the master plan through its various phases.

Review of Previous Proposals to Redevelop Port Royal – 1964 to 2009

Previous Development Plans were done to guide the development of Port Royal between 1964 to 2009.

1964 – This Plan envisioned the development of Port Royal as a purely tourist destination with accompanying commercial, hotel and apartment developments. Limited attention was given and importance placed on the town’s historic significance.
1967 – This Plan opposed the strategies outlined in the 1964 Plan and took the opposite approach. It outlined that any development effort in Port Royal would require extensive planning, research, to guarantee that the historic significance is preserved.

1968 – This UNESCO proposal recognized the town’s historic significance but felt it would be ‘too ambitious, costly and subject to too much conjecture’ to recreate the whole town to what it was pre 1692. Therefore, it recommended that restoration emphasis be placed on specific areas such as the Historic Royal Naval Hospital, Fort Charles, St Peter’s Church and the Royal Naval Dockyard.

1979 – This Master Plan was done by Government Archaeologist Anthony Aarons. It focussed on the archaeological sites and proposed the creation of archaeological parks with a secondary focus on socio-economic and ecological impacts to drive the town’s redevelopment.

1981 – This UNESCO missions study by (Faulkner & Lemaire) recommended the packaging of Port Royal with Spanish Town to galvanize and provide linkages. This was proposed to garner greater collaboration and highlight attractions in towns that are both rich in historical and cultural heritage. 

1984 – This is an update to the 1979 Plan. Oliver Cox, JNHT and UDC through collaboration added the restoration of Lime Street to the Master Plan that was done by Anthony Aarons. 

1987 – This study identified Chocolata Hole, with its Pirate Museum as a critical attraction that could be developed. It recommended the implementation of an Arrival Centre, re-establishment of the Ferry to Kingston from the Naval Dockyard, with an information centre and the relocation of the police/customs post. It also recommended continued historical research and planning. The study also recommended that the town retain its historic pattern with a focus on updating the fisherman’s beach.

1993 – This Marin Goodman Plan, which was prepared for the UDC recommended that the development strategy for Port Royal should be based on several elements from all the previous programmes. These elements include tourism as a major economic activity, social improvements and the creation of employment opportunities. It also included the following recommendations.

i. The town retains its present pattern, with main focus on the fishermen’s beach, similar to the 1987 study. It proposed upgrading and infilling in a manner that reflects the town’s history while improving the living conditions of the people who reside there.
ii. Display of proper signage on historic buildings in a way that is easily understood and accessible by the public.
iii. Designation of selected areas on land and sea for untroubled excavation, investigation and where possible, exhibition of such relicts as may be located there.
iv. Upgrade of existing buildings of historic significance where appropriate, through camouflage.
v. Reconstruction of a small segment of the town in a manner that give visitors an insight of what Port Royal might have looked like today, if buildings from the various stages of its history had survived over the centuries.
Special attention was given to Social Improvement, Employment and Accommodation.
Social Improvement – This aspect focused on the inclusion of local participation in the overall development of the area. The need to find a balance between local and visitor needs to determine measures for implementation was emphasized.

Employment – The Plan purported the need to ensure that there is a focus on the provision of employment opportunities for residents, which will be paramount in realizing social and economic sustainability in the town.
Accommodations: They recommended the provision of new and the upgrade of existing facilities for both locals and visitors.
2000 – This proposal by Marvin Goodman recommended the retention of the fabric of the town with new period structures in the vacant highlighted attraction areas such as Chocolata Hole, which would feature the following.
Commercial activity and cruise ship pier, Fort Charles, the Historic Royal Naval Hospital, Royal Naval Dockyard for arrival centre, a naval museum in Spirit Store and updated parking facilities.
Admiralty Houses, Lime Street as an archaeological park, a 5-star hotel by the JDF site, removal of the UWI Port Royal Marine Laboratory, community centre and playing field.
2009 – This Plan was done by Oliver Cox, for the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT). It focussed on five priority projects ready for implementation that would act as a catalyst to Port Royal’s redevelopment. The projects included Fort Charles, Chocolata Hole, the Historic Royal Naval Hospital, Underwater City and Lime Street. This proposal did not include Cruise Shipping.

Grounding the Plan “Sustainable Port Royal” – 2018 & Beyond

Sustainable Port Royal will take the lessons learnt from the previous proposals, and assess their viability while linking them to potential collaborations to meet the requirements of UNESCO designation. Specific elements from the 1993, 2000 and 2009 Plans will be revisited and where viable, improved upon and included.

The UNESCO guidelines 2017, the RAMSAR site obligations and the Palisadoes-Port Royal Protected Area Zoning Plan (P-PRPA) 2015, an outline Master Plan for Port Royal and the Palisadoes will all be critical in creating the development proposals for the area. As “designated protected national heritage”, Port Royal’s redevelopment will also be guided by the following documents.

a. Draft preservation scheme for Port Royal and the Palisadoes Protected National Heritage, 2018
b. The Venice Charter 1964: International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites, ICOMOS, 1965
c. Charter for the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas (Washington Charter 1987), ICOMOS, October 1987
d. The Valletta Principles 2011: For the Safeguarding and Management of Historic Cities, Towns and Urban Areas, ICOMOS, November 2011
e. Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, 2017

Sustainable Port Royal” will be positioned to achieve the following:
Alignment to Vision 2030 National Development Plan

  • Specifically through (National Goal 4 and its corresponding National Outcomes(s)

Table 1: National Goal 4 and Corresponding Outcomes

National Goal 4National Outcomes
Jamaica has a Healthy Natural EnvironmentSustainable Management and Use of Environmental and Natural Resources
Hazard Risk Reduction and Adaptation to Climate Change
Sustainable Urban and Rural Development

Alignment to the Sustainable Development Goals Specifically, Goals 11, 13, 14 & 15

  • Make Cities and Human Settlements Inclusive, Safe,
  • Resilient and Sustainable”, “Climate Action”, “Life Below Water” and “Life on Land” respectively.

Table 2: Sustainable Development Goals 11, 13, 14 & 15 Targets

Goal 11 TargetsStrengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage To ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums To provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all To enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management.
Goal 13 TargetsStrengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related disasters
Integrate climate change measures into policies and planning.
Build knowledge and capacity to meet climate change.
Promote mechanisms to raise capacity for planning and management
Implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Goal 14 TargetsReduce marine pollution
Protect and restore ecosystems
Reduce ocean acidification
Sustainable fishing
Conserve coastal and marine areas
End subsidies contributing to overfishing
Increase the economic benefits from sustainable use of marine resources
Increase scientific knowledge, research and technology for ocean health
Support small scale fishers
Implement and enforce international sea law
Goal 15 TargetsConserve and restore terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems
End deforestation and restore degraded forests
End desertification and restore degraded land
Ensure conservation of mountain ecosystems
Protect biodiversity and natural habitats
Promote access to genetic resources and fair sharing of the benefits
Prevent invasive alien species on land and in water ecosystems
Integrate ecosystem and biodiversity in governmental planning
Increase financial resources to conserve and sustainably use ecosystem and biodiversity
Finance and incentivize sustainable forest management

Alignment to the New Urban Agenda (Habitat III)

  • Guide for efforts surrounding urbanization over the next 20 years.
  • The urban-focused SDG, Goal 11, is also seen as an extension of an idea, first set out by the Habitat Agenda.
  • An action-oriented document with global standards for sustainable urban development.

– Provide basic services for all citizens
– Ensure that all citizens have access to equal opportunities and face no discrimination
– Promote measures that support cleaner cities
– Strengthen resilience in cities to reduce the risk and the impact of disasters

  • Focus on Urban Design and Planning through “Principle 100”
In addition to the local legislations and policies that will guide the development of Port Royal, all proposals and concepts in the Plan will also be guided primarily by the following international agreements that Jamaica is signatory to.
  • The Paris Agreement – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2015)
  • The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction for the period 2015–2030
  • The Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action Pathway
  • The Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011–2020

Area of Development

The size of the redevelopment area is approximately 7,523 hectares (75.23 square kilometres. The area includes terrestrial and marine assets and mirrors the Palisadoes, Port Royal Protected Area (a declared area under the Natural Resources Conservation Act of 1991) and is also a Ramsar site.

The tombolo that makes up the Palisadoes and serves as a natural protection of Kingston Harbour as well as all the quays that are located in close proximity of Port Royal and the sunken city are also included. See Map 1 for map of redevelopment area.

Port Royal is unique as it is the zone, which most represents an interface between people and the natural environment, with a largely undisturbed natural area. The Norman Manley International Airport is a significant infrastructure, within the area and is almost equidistance between Port Royal and the mainland, at Harbour View.

The area’s natural environment contains significant natural resources and the mangroves especially provides a buffer and protection to the town and Kingston.

The town of Port Royal, today, is primarily a small fishing village with limited alternate economic activity. The primary land-uses2 to be found in the town are military in the form of the JDF Coast Guard, residential, vacant which includes archaeological sites, mangrove forests and historic buildings/monuments.

Despite its rich history, the town has limited amount of historical structures, however, its layout is reminiscent of the 17th century town, and often just below the surface are to be found archaeological artifacts. Given the foregoing, Port Royal was declared a National Heritage Site in 1999 under the Jamaica National Heritage Trust Act of 1985; and the JNHT is actively seeking UNESCO World Heritage Designation with the expectation of a 2019 declaration.

Port Royal (and the remainder of the tombolo) is also significant because of its unique ecosystem of sand dunes, coral reefs, lagoons, sea grass beds, turtle nesting beaches and mangrove forests. To show its significance, the area was declared the Palisadoes-Port Royal Protected Area on September 18, 1998 under the NRCA Act of 1991; and on April 22, 2005 was designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention of 1971.

Port Royal 

Approach to Facilitate Development

The preparation of the Sustainable Port Royal Development Plan is being pursued in accordance with section 5 of the UDC Act, following a mandate issued by the Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness for the UDC to lead the co-ordination of the redevelopment process for the area. The UDC has a proven track record in the development of tourism/heritage towns as evident with its development of Ocho Rios, as well as areas in Montego Bay and Negril. The UDC’s involvement with Port Royal dates back to the 1980’s through the commissioning of a number of development proposals to support its unique character.

The UDC has engaged in extensive research which provides it with the requisite knowledge to best lead and implement its vision for a redeveloped Port Royal. Through our planning and development and management activities, it is intended that it will become a model sustainable heritage tourism destination with emphasis on the preservation of its rich history, culture and natural environment.

A. Development of strategies to tell the story and re-live the experiences, encourage activities and generate economic opportunities in a sustainable way.
B. Upgrade to existing facilities in the town.

Commitment to Heritage Tourism

The government is committed to promoting and enhancing the culture heritage of the country and by extension the cultural heritage of specific communities. Port Royal and the Palisadoes is designated as a protected national heritage under the JNHT Act of 1985. One of the basic roles of art, culture, and heritage has long been to bring beauty, depth and meaning into daily lives, which usually lead to building social capital. Therefore, protecting the heritage of Port Royal, its sites and structures through strict development guidelines is critical to the sustainability of the area’s product.
Port Royal’s pull factors include but are not limited to its unique heritage, culture and eco-tourism. The government’s commitment to promoting and enhancing the cultural heritage of the country is stated in the Vision 2030 National Development Plan.
The vision 2030 National Development Plan also alludes to developing and implementing heritage, cultural, historical and nature based attraction projects. The proposed re-introduction of cruise shipping to Port Royal is a project being tied to the redevelopment of the area as a vibrant cultural and heritage attraction.

Showcasing Port Royal’s Heritage

There is the need to preserve and tell the story of the Jamaican people, their history, struggles, victories, livelihood and the marvels of the natural environment that surround us. A campaign to educate our people on its importance and use; to build national pride, identity and empowerment in not only where we have been but what we have achieved and our potential to achieve more.

These will be facilitated while incorporating the established approach of sustainability and incorporating the four pronged approach.

  • Cultural Vitality
  • Economic Health
  • Social Equity
  • Environmental Responsibility

The Plan will seek to address a number of existing issues to ensure viability over the medium to long terms.

  1. Sewerage Infrastructure
    • The overall historic significance of the town means that excavations have to be properly planned in order to recover any artefacts. However, the layout of 1690s Port Royal roads are the same as they are today, therefore, it is believed that minimal discoveries of artefacts are expected during any excavation in the roads.
    • The relatively flat terrain will understandably create some difficulty in the sewerage layout of the town.
    • The investigations show the locations of many septic tanks which could be integrated since they are already connected to the households. However, this will cause some difficulty in the end treatment as the sewage would have become septic and no longer “fresh” for treatment.
    • Investigations also showed that grey water is currently being conveyed in the storm water drains and as such any implemented system must include the collection of greywater.
      • Other sewage disposal strategies were explored such as eco toilets, which provide onsite black water treatment. However, this option is energy intensive as it treats the sewage via incineration using an electrical power source. This will undoubtedly increase the cost of implementation as well the cost operation.
        – In terms of final treatment, the PAJ will be installing a treatment plant for the port and we have had dialog for them to add sufficient capacity to handle the sewage of the town.
  2. Public Amenities
    • School (Basic and All Age) – to be considered for upgrade
    • Health – The upgrade of the Health Clinic from type 1 will be implemented after consultations with the responsible Ministry, also linkages with the Harbour View Health Centre needs to be established) – closest hospitals (University Hospital of the West Indies, St Josephs, Nuttall Hospital or Kingston Public Hospital)
    • Post Office (Kingston1)- to be considered for upgrade
    • Customs – relocation a site that will be decided after consultation with the relevant agencies.
    • Police Force – part of East Kingston Division – recommend relocation site to be decided based on consultation with the relevant agencies.
    • Banking Services – to be expanded as the various banks see profitable. The introduction of cruise ships and the update of the heritage facilities as activities will require ATMs and other banking outlets.
    • ATMs/Banking Facilities – Placement close to Port of Call and historic core where possible and feasible
    • Fire Fighting and Emergency Response Fire Fighting and emergency response measures will be implemented with the relevant authorities.
    • General landscaping and open green space improvement to include provision of a playfield.
  3. Housing Initiatives
    • Establishment of Management team complete with members from all relevant MDAs to ensure that the agreed guidelines are adhered to.
    • Partnerships with the Port Royal Brotherhood to refurbish and/or rebuild the existing housing structures.
    • Identify suitable locations for construction of new housing structures and relocation of illegal settlers.
    • Rental of property, using the Airbnb framework is one way of adding income and ensuring maintenance.
    • Development of new housing structures, will as much as possible, reflect the period of original development of the area.
  4. Economic Sustainable Opportunities
    • Opportunities for local enterprise (duly licensed)
    • Development of cottage industries
    • Enhanced Entrepreneurship through training and capacity building exercise
    • Resort residential supporting amenities by pier – high end
    • Port of call movements
    • Parking, shuttles, public facilities
    • Promenade to Port Royal to include run/walk/jog, bicycle, eco opportunities and rest stops that are certified
    • Upgrade of housing sock within the existing street layout – initial proposal
    • Boutique Development along Waterfront