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Port of San Juan improvement project gets green light

Starting in June, Puerto Rico’s Bay of San Juan will undergo nearly $58.8 million in navigation and docking improvement works for an expected 14 months. 

The newly signed agreement between the Puerto Rico Ports Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is to deepen and widen shipping channels.

The bulk of the funding stems from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Act enacted last year, which assigns $17 billion for port and navigation infrastructure across the United States. 

The San Juan Bay project will receive more than $44.7 million of those federal funds, while the little more than $14 million remaining will be footed by the Ports Authority. 

The feasibility study for the San Juan Bay Improvement Project was released by USACE in 2017.

Authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 2018, the “pre-construction, engineering and design phase” for the new project was completed in January, according to a news release issued by the Puerto Rico governor’s office, La Fortaleza, which adds that the project’s construction contract is slated to be published in March and awarded in May, for work to start in June.

“Investment in this project will generate multimillion-dollar economic activity for Puerto Rico, due to its direct and indirect multiplier effect,” Puerto Rico Ports Authority Executive Director Joel Pizá said in the release. “The mere fact of increasing the global competitiveness of the port is an incalculable added value in the short and long term. This will allow the future entry of larger cruise ships, it will improve maritime traffic with ships that transport gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, among others, and it will encourage cruise ships to reduce the time of their berthing maneuvers, generating an economic benefit for them by reducing transportation costs.”

La Fortaleza adds that Ports “took advantage of the dredging of San Juan Bay to dredge cruise ship docks 1, 2, 3, the Pan-American docks I and II; piers 11 to 14 in Puerta de Tierra; and the docks in the Puerto Nuevo port area, which is where Puerto Rico receives much of its imports. The Ports Authority paid some $497,000 for this additional dredging and effort was invested in obtaining all the permits.”

Col. James L. Booth, USACE Jacksonville District commander, was quoted as saying that the “recommended plan includes the expansion and deepening of the interior channels of the port that lead to the terminals of maritime cargo operators and cruise ships.” 

He added that the project specifications include:

– Deepening a section of the entrance by 6 feet, to 46 feet.

– Widening the Army Terminal Canal from 350 feet to 450 feet.

– Deepening the Anegado and Army Terminal channels of the Inner Harbor from 40 feet to 44 feet.

– Deepening the San Antonio Access Channel and its extension from 35 feet to 36 feet.

– Expanding the federal project limits 1,050 feet east of the San Antonio Canal Extension.

– Deepening of the area where the cruise ships do their berthing maneuvers from 30 feet to 36 feet.

“The port facilities are clearly part of the most important infrastructure in Puerto Rico,” Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said when announcing the start of the construction. “This agreement between the Ports Authority and the Corps of Engineers, as well as the construction of this project, will greatly benefit our economic activity, reducing the costs of transportation of products and fuel, allowing larger ships and cruise ships to arrive, and improving the maritime traffic by reducing berthing time, which benefits our environment and the safety of our port area. These efforts are part of a comprehensive economic development strategy that seeks to expand our ability to attract maritime traffic, including for the cruise tourism industry.”

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

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