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Rossello’s Proposal To Invest $370M In Roosevelt Roads Transshipment Port Would Create 100,000 Jobs In 10 Years

Will argue before Congress and U.S. agencies trying to sell the 8,600-acre naval station


July 31, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Former Gov. Pedro Rossello’s proposal to develop a $370 million transshipment port that would create 100,000 jobs within 10 years at Ceiba’s Naval Station Roosevelt Roads (NSRR) gave a push toward requesting the land from the U.S. Congress before it is sold.

"I plan to ask the Department of Defense [DOD], the federal government, and the U.S. Congress to cede NSRR to Puerto Rico to convert it into an International Transshipment Port of the Western Hemisphere in U.S. territory. [My] economic development plan will generate more than 100,000 jobs with an economic impact for Puerto Rico of more than $15 billion annually by 2015," Rossello said.

"There is no doubt the U.S. Navy has already begun the process of ceasing operations at NSRR," said Rossello. "In the near future, the Navy will abandon these military installations…. It has [already] been decided by the U.S. Navy, the DOD, and the U.S. House of Representatives. This decision will now be discussed in a conference committee of the House and the Senate, which is the first step toward the imminent closure of Roosevelt Roads."

If the NSRR’s 8,600 acres were closed by the Base Realignment & Closure (BRAC) Commission, scheduled to make the next round of closing announcements in 2005, Puerto Rico would be eligible for economic grants and loans from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the DOD’s Office of Economic Adjustment (CB May 1).

Rossello’s proposal for a transshipment port emphasizes the importance of the Mona Passage as a unique thoroughfare in the U.S. for the international maritime-cargo transportation industry. According to Rossello, building the port in Ceiba would reduce costs and could save $1 billion in cargo transportation to Puerto Rico, since it would eliminate the need for transshipment in other ports.

After declaring that the Port of Ponce doesn’t have the land needed for a global transshipment port, Rossello urged the Calderon administration to continue the port’s improvement and expansion to accommodate the development of the southern region.

The former governor stressed that Ceiba’s transshipment port would use the island’s competitive advantages to develop the economy, among them a highly educated labor force, a strategic geographic position, and an excellent climate. He also mentioned the island’s relationship with the U.S.: a shared monetary and financial system, subjection to federal laws and regulations, and political stability.

"Puerto Rico can’t and doesn’t want to compete in terms of cheap labor to attract investment, and we can’t depend on artificial incentives for stable and long-term economic development," said Rossello. "These kinds of incentives can be granted today and rapidly eliminated tomorrow. They aren’t the principal stimuli for capital investment and economic development.

"We need solid ideas and programs, creative but practical ideas that will generate jobs [on a massive scale]," continued Rossello. "Jobs that won’t be taken away from Puerto Rico in favor of reduced labor costs in other countries. Jobs that must be established in Puerto Rico."

Rossello’s 10-year program for the development of Ceiba’s transshipment port calls for handling 25% to 30% of the region’s transshipment load (the equivalent of three million containers), plus 50% to 75% of the Port of San Juan’s domestic and international cargo (approximately 1.7 million containers). Rossello predicts a growth in the transshipment port’s capacity from eight to nine million containers to 15 to 20 million within 50 years.

The port’s $370 million investment also includes combining maritime and aerial transportation to create a comprehensive cargo-transportation network throughout the Western Hemisphere. It would include facilities for research & development, assembling, packaging, warehousing, distribution, manufacturing, and a multiuse Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ).

Maritime facilities would incorporate at least four of the existing six piers for post-Panamax vessels and 40 to 50 feeder (smaller) ships. In addition, the 11,000-foot-long Ofstie Airport runway would be classified as an international facility. There are 110 miles of roadway on the base bordering 42 miles of coastline; two water treatment plants, four waste treatment plants, and a connection to Naguabo’s Rio Blanco; gasoline fueling and storage facilities; 1,342 buildings, including a hospital, schools, and a hotel; plus the requisite communications infrastructure.

Several New Progressive Party (NPP) leaders joined Rossello for his presentation on the transshipment port, among them his campaign chief of staff, Juan R. Melecio; San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini; candidates for resident commissioner Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer and Charlie Rodriguez; and Naguabo Mayor Rafael Baez, in whose municipality lies part of NSRR. The NPP gubernatorial contender will make additional presentations in the weeks leading to the November primaries to introduce a dozen or so infrastructure, economic development, health, security, education, tourism, and cultural projects, which form part of his campaign platform.

The projects include a train system that circles the entire island, to be known as Tren Todo Puerto Rico; improvements to Old San Juan and the creation of a Tourism & Cruise Ship District; Cataño’s coastal redevelopment; and the development of Miramar’s Golden Triangle and San Juan’s estuary systems. Rossello also proposes expanding Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport and completing the interconnection of Puerto Rico’s expressway system.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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