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ATI commissions new $5.2M barge to boost cargo capacity to Vieques, Culebra 

The vessel will be able to haul heavy equipment, tanker trucks, gasoline and other goods more efficiently.

The Integrated Transportation Authority (ATI, in Spanish) of Puerto Rico announced it has commissioned Texas-based Conrad Shipyard to build a new cargo barge to strengthen the maritime transportation and cargo network connecting the island-municipalities of Vieques and Culebra, at a cost of $5.2 million.

The barge will be custom-made according to the needs identified as part of the Puerto Rico Maritime Transportation Service Project, said ATI Executive Director Josué Menéndez-Agosto. 

This project is supported by a $2.8 million allocation of federal funds through the U.S. Maritime Transportation Department’s (MARAD) America’s Maritime Route program. It is the first time that ATI has received funds from this federal allocation, he said.

“This acquisition represents a significant step forward, given that the new barge will be owned by ATI, which eliminates the need to resort to rentals and, consequently, leads to considerable savings in terms of leasing expenses,” Menéndez-Agosto stated. 

The new vessel will help solve the limitations of the current vessel, which can only reach Vieques, Menéndez-Agosto added. Culebra is currently serviced by vessels that combine passengers and cargo. It will not only be able to dock in Culebra due to its draft but will also be able to more efficiently carry heavy cargo, such as construction equipment, tanker trucks and fuel, which represents a better quality of life for the residents, the agency stated. 

“The incorporation of this new vessel into the ATI fleet represents a significant step forward for transportation between the islands of Vieques and Culebra,” said Eileen M. Vélez-Vega, secretary of the Department of Transportation and Public Works.

“With its greater load capacity, we’ll improve the efficiency and punctuality of services. We will also strengthen economic development and the quality of life for residents and visitors. This initiative underlines our commitment to providing safe, reliable and sustainable transportation solutions for all,” Vélez-Vega said. 

Once built, the barge must pass Coast Guard inspections and certifications issued by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS). The government officials stated that the goal is to standardize the maritime service fleet as part of ATI’s transformation and reengineering plans.

A few months ago, ATI began the process of purchasing four passenger vessels for the route between Ceiba and the municipal islands at a cost of $70 million, with the first expected to be delivered at the end of this year.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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