The Puerto Rico Ports Authority has struck a strategic partnership via a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Norwegian Cruise Line to further the improvements needed at the Pan American and San Juan piers, the government announced.
The upgrades seek to guarantee the arrival of two large ships to the island: the Norwegian Dawn in January 2019, and the Norwegian Epic, which could visit the island starting December 2019.
“We continue to strengthen the visitor economy. We’re pleased to announce this agreement that will allow us to meet the needs of the cruise industry, whose ships are now bigger, and promote economic development and tourism in Puerto Rico,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said over the weekend.
“Soon we’ll be able to welcome some of the largest cruise ships in the world with greater passenger capacity and a significant number of visits, which will undoubtedly have a positive impact on our economy,” he said.
The San Juan-area cruise ship piers are already seeing greater activity, with the arrival of multiple vessels on a single day. On Sunday, there were seven cruise ships docked in San Juan, with an estimated passenger total of some 18,000. Government officials estimated the impact of their one-day visit to the island at $2.7 million.
Of those seven ships, four — Freedom of the Seas, the Norwegian Dawn, the Carnival Fascination and Viking Sea — are using San Juan as their homeport, receiving 10,202 passengers to depart to other ports of call.
The other three ships that visited were the Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Gem and Celebrity Equinox.
Ports Authority Executive Director Anthony Maceira-Zayas said the signing of the MOU will pave the way for NCL to “take over design and the construction of the immediate operational improvements that are needed to ensure safe berthing of two of the largest ships will reach Puerto Rico.”
“In return, and with a commitment of a certain number of dockages a year, the Ports Authority has guaranteed them it will accommodate certain berths that to date had no confirmation and grant partial credit for volume-based investment,” Maceira-Zayas said.
At a time when Ports has no capital to develop cruise ship docks, reaching agreements with the private sector provides certain guarantees for future improvements, he said.
According to a study by the agency, part of the necessary improvements the piers require includes optimizing the barge system, access to the platform from the deck and installation of additional fenders. There is also a need to install additional bollards, verify of the usefulness of the waterline and electric capacity, and the development of a study to measure the depth of water at the pier.