More than a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars later, the Port of the Americas Authority board of directors announced Wednesday the selection of Portek International Private Limited to direct the operations and development of the much delayed structure in Ponce.
The selection came after a process of evaluation of companies that participated in the call for Request for Proposals from the Port of the Americas Authority to identify an operator with the expertise and capacity to take on the project.
The Port of the Americas has been in the works since 2004, and was positioned to to become a hub for maritime cargo in the Caribbean, mainly because of its 55-foot channel draft and its central location. Puerto Rico’s strategic location for maritime routes between the United States, Europe and Latin America, as well as Asia via the Panama Canal, position the Port of the Americas to become a global distribution center.
At last tally, the project had already burned through $800 million in investments to complete four major development phases.
On Feb. 20, the committee that evaluated the proposals presented its recommendations, based on criteria established by the RFP. The call required interested companies to show their skills and experience in the operation, management, maintenance and marketing of port facilities.
The committee concluded that Portek International had submitted the most complete proposal, which demonstrated its qualifications, experience as an operator of international caliber and knowledge of the peculiarities of the Port of the Americas, the government said.
“The development of the Port is one of our top priorities, so we were very thorough in assessing the offer of the various companies that expressed an interest in taking over its operation and development,” Economic Development and Commerce Secretary and Port of the Americas board Chairman, Alberto Bacó, said.
“We set out to maximize its potential to become an engine of economic activity for the island’s southern region. We just took another important step in that direction,” he said.
Portek International specializes in providing equipment and services to ports operating mainly in Asia, Europe, and Africa, and now has a presence in the Caribbean. It was founded in 1988, was part of the Singapore Exchange in 2002, and currently has 19 offices in 10 countries with more than 1,400 employees worldwide.
Its proposal established its experience in aspects of engineering, management and information technology in the port industry that enable it to estimate the capacity of a terminal, and establish an operational structure in a short period of time, the Authority said.
The Authority and Portek will now begin a negotiation phase to define the contract terms to develop the Ponce Port. That process should be wrapped up by mid-year.
According to the original roadmap for the Port’s development, the operator was supposed to have been chosen in 2008. At the time, the Port was envisioned to become a value-added transshipment facility — a location where goods are not only transferred from one ship to another, but are manipulated in some way, whether repackaged or assembled, before being shipped to their final destination. It is designed to handle post-Panamax vessels.
Since then, however, other countries in the region, namely Panama and the Dominican Republic, have completed similar facilities, becoming serious competitors for the local megaport.