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Maritime Transportation Authority picks proponent for Ceiba-Vieques-Culebra route

The Maritime Transportation Authority has reportedly selected the proponent that could be taking over the concession to provide transportation services between Puerto Rico and the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra, this media outlet learned.

Ten months after revealing the short list of companies in the running to enter into a public-private partnership with the government to offer the service, the MTA has reportedly selected HMS Ferries Inc., according to industry sources.

Although the MTA refrained from revealing the identity of the selected service provider — which is now in negotiations for the contract — the agency sent out a letter July 1 informing its decision, a spokesperson confirmed.

“The proponent will be granted the contract for the concession to operate maritime transportation between Ceiba and the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra after pertinent negotiations,” said MTA Executive Director Mara Pérez-Torres in a statement.

“At this point, we cannot reveal the [name] of the selected proponent given the confidentiality required by Law 29 of 2009,” she said

The Public-Private Partnerships Act says that during the process of evaluation, selection and negotiation with proposers, the agency leading the negotiations must maintain confidentiality of the information.

In September 2018, the government announced its short-list of proponents for the maritime service that also included the Cataño/San Juan route. The companies were: Balearia Caribbean Inc., Priority Roro Services Inc., HMS Ferries Inc., Puerto Rico Fast Ferries, LLC., and Seastreak, LLC. 

The project requires a potential investment of between $20 million and $25 million, as this media outlet reported.

HMS Ferries Inc., based in Bainbridge Island, Washington, is the ferries division of HMS Global Maritime — formerly known as Hornblower Marine Services Inc. The company offers “specialized knowledge and expertise required to transport passengers, vehicles and other cargo safely across inland and coastal waterways,” according to its website.

It has contracts to operate at least eight other ferry services throughout the U.S. mainland, including New York City’s NYC Ferry Service, which offers two routes connecting Manhattan with points across the East River in northern Brooklyn and Queens.

Ferry service between Puerto Rico and its island municipalities has been historically erratic, with vessel breakdowns and interruptions becoming the order of the day. Late last year, the government moved the ferry terminal from Fajardo to Ceiba, where new facilities were built to launch shorter routes out of Roosevelt Roads to the island municipalities.

The service is currently being provided with several vessels leased from a private operator.

Author Details
Business reporter with 25 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.

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