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Puerto Rico Pushes On With Plan For New Port
By CANUTE JAMES
MAY 30, 2002
Puerto Rico is pressing ahead with plans for a $1bn cargo transhipment port, despite increasing concerns about overcapacity in the region and the project's feasibility, government officials said yesterday.
Sila Calderon, Puerto Rico's governor, considers the facility, to be called the Port of the Americas, essential to the economy of the island, the officials said.
"This is commitment by the administration to the economic development of the island," said one official. "There is already great interest from international shipping in this venture."
The port would be located in the southern towns of Ponce and Guayanilla, where the government hopes it will become a hub for cargo from Europe and Asia to the Caribbean as well as the US and South America. It is also being envisaged as a relay point for traffic between the US and Asia, through the Panama Canal, and from North America to South America.
The government is looking to select an investor by the second quarter of next year, according to Hector Jimenez Juarbe, the manager of the venture. He expects construction to begin in 2004, with completion by 2007.
The investor, who will build and operate the port under a 25-year concession, would be expected to put about $650m into the project, with the government providing $350m in infrastructure development and public works. The government would retain all property rights.
The government says there has been interest from CSX and P&OR Ports of the US, NYK of Japan, PSA and NOL of Singapore, ICTSI of the Philippines, AP Miller of Denmark and Harrington Wan Poe of Hong Kong.
The Puerto Rican facility would have significant competition within the Caribbean Basin from terminals that are either being built or are being expanded.
A transhipment port is being constructed in neighbouring Dominican Republic. Facilities are being expanded at Freeport in the Bahamas and Kingston, Jamaica.
The Port of the Americas will also compete with Colon in Panama and Puerto Cabello in Venezuela.
The government says 5,600 construction workers will be employed and that when in operation, the port will provide 20,000 direct and indirect jobs.