- Port of the Americas (Port of Ponce)
Port of Ponce (current port)
, to operate their respective ports.
The Port of Ponce’s operations, as well as those of other island ports including the
Mayagüez Port’s, were significantly reduced during the second half of the 20th century, mainly due to the decay of the agriculture industry in the island and the fact that the government shifted most shipping imports and exports to the San Juan Portlocated in the island’s capital of San Juan. This port became Puerto Rico’s main shipping port, experiencing significant expansion projects and heavy traffic year-round, while the Port of Ponce and the Mayagüez Port were left with mostly local operations. It is estimated that 90% of all goods exported or imported in Puerto Rico passed through the San Juan Port. These situations led to the mayor of Ponce, and more recently the mayor of Mayagüez, to convince the state government to concede the port facilities and operations to their respective Municipality.
Following these ownership changes, several improvements were made to the Port of Ponce, most of them under the administration of late mayor Rafael “Churumba” Cordero Santiago (PPD). These improvements included repaving worn-out roads, adding a small railway system for transporting oil and chemicals from ships to holding tanks (although it is now rarely in operations), and a
cruise shipterminal. The port had one quay side crane in operations before the Port of the Americas project got under way, and a second crane was acquired soon after the project began in 2004.
Port of the Americas (future port)
The idea of constructing a megaport in the island has been debated since the late 1980s. By then Puerto Rico’s economy was highly dependent on an export manufacturing industry, which in turn relied on substantial federal and state government tax subsidies. Political and business leaders alike agreed that, in order to secure Puerto Rico’s economic future, the island had to diversify its economy and improve its attractiveness towards manufacturers and similar businesses since it could not rely solely on tax benefits. Therefore, the government decided to invest heavily in developing tourism areas, such as new passenger cruise ship terminals at the San Juan Port, and developing plans to convert Puerto Rico into the leading manufacturing and shipping location in the
Caribbean. During the late 1990s, the megaport project obtained significant support when the US federal government decided to phase out most of the federal tax subsidies awarded to manufacturing companies in Puerto Rico and after neighboring countries Jamaicaand the Dominican Republicannounced plans to create megaports of their own.
, and the island’s close proximity to the Mona Passage (a large and deep channel between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic were most ships sail when traveling between the Panama Canal and the US eastern coast). During this research stage, three potential locations were considered for the megaport:
San Juan Port– This location contemplated moving most local shipping operations to other island ports and expanding the current main port of the island into an international megaport.
*Ponce/Guayanilla/Peñuelas Port – This location contemplated leaving most local operations in San Juan, while converting the Port of Ponce into an international megaport with additional port facilities in the nearby towns of Guayanilla and Peñuelas.
*Roosevelt Roads (RR) Port – This location came into consideration after the
US Navyclosed its Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in the town of Ceiba in light of peace protests by local citizens. The naval station had adequate piers and quay side, a small airport, and large sections of undeveloped lands. This location contemplated leaving local operations in San Juan and other local ports while expanding the naval station’s port facilities into a megaport, however it required that the U.S. Navy either concede these lands to the state government or sell them at a price lower than its actual fair market value, since the base is located near high tourism areas (including the El Yunque reserve) significantly elevating its selling price.
Ponce mayor Rafael Cordero lobbied heavily for the location of the megaport to be in his hometown of Ponce before his untimely death. He argued that Ponce already included adequate port facilities, a nearby airport, sufficient road and highway infrastructure, and approximately convert|1000|acre|km2 adjacent and near the port for immediate development into value-added areas. His efforts were mostly supported by members of his political party (PPD), while the opposing party (PNP) supported the Roosevelt Roads location. In the end, the state government decided to award the location of the Port of the Americas to the city of Ponce. As an act of remembrance, the state government signed into law the creation of the Port of the Americas project and named the port after the late mayor.
The Port of the Americas Project is owned and currently managed by the Port of the Americas Authority (APA by its Spanish acronym), a joint venture between the Municipality of Ponce and the state government. APA currently has an Executive Director, engineer Ramon Torres Morales, who is also the Executive Director of the current Port of Ponce. APA also has a Board of Directors, whose positions are reserved for the P.R. Secretary of Economic Development, the Director of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO by its Spanish acronym), the P.R. Secretary of Transportation, the Mayor of Ponce, the Mayor of Guayanilla, the Mayor of Peñuelas, and several other business and civic leaders.
The Port of the Americas construction project is divided into four main phases which will add an additional convert|3000|ft|m of quay side to the Port of Ponce, dredge the existing port entrance and nearby bay to a depth of convert|50|ft|m, and develop adjacent lots into new container yards. This project would allow the actual Port of Ponce to handle three post-panamax vessels at any given time (Puerto Rico previously could not handle these types of ships due to relatively shallow depths) and increase its annual throughput to a total of TEU|1.4 million|first=yes. Final project costs are currently estimated at $700 million USD. [http://skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=211852 "Megaport Needs Additional $300 Million"] (in Spanish) by Miguel Díaz Román,
El Nuevo Dia, May 10, 2005, retrieved June 30, 2006]
*Phase 1 - The first phase of the project adds 1,200 ft (365.76 m) of quay to the existing piers, which will then accommodate four modern quay cranes with a rail gauge of 100 ft (30.48 m). This phase finished two months ahead of schedule in late 2004.
*Phase 2 - The second phase, which began in 2005, aims to dredge the existing Ponce bay near the entrance of the Port, the entrance channel and the piers to a depth of 50 ft (15.24 m), making them the deepest in the
Caribbean. The dredging will relocate approximately 5.5 million cubic meters of marine soil . [http://www.ceducapr.com/noticias/wmview.php?ArtID=11116 “Dredging Project of Ponce Bay Starts for Megaport Project”] (in Spanish) by Alex David, Primera Hora, July 14, 2005, retrieved June 30, 2006] . This phase also includes developing 18 acres adjacent to the current piers to increase its yard capacity by TEU|250,000|first=yes of annual throughput.
*Phase 3 - This phase plans to convert land adjacent to the current port into a 50 ft (15.24 m) deep canal adding convert|1500|ft|m|abbr=on of quay side for additional vessels and developing other sections near the future canal to increase total annual throughput to TEU|700,000.
*Phase 4 - The final stage will add another convert|50|ft|m|abbr=on deep canal, adding an additional convert|1500|ft|m of quay side, and developing adjacent lands into new container yards, increasing the Port's annual throughput to a total of TEU|1,400,000. [http://www.portoftheamericas.com/about.project/phases.htm]
Transportation in Puerto Rico
* [http://www.portoftheamericas.com/ Official Webpage]
* [http://www.portoftheamericas.com/project.updates/photos.htm See photos of the completed and planned phases]
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