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Ports Authority unveils fire control system upgrade project at Puerto Nuevo docks

The Puerto Rico Ports Authority announced the start of what will be a $4 million to $5 million investment in a full upgrade of the fire suppression system in the Puerto Nuevo loading docks in San Juan.

Ports Executive Director Joel Pizá confirmed that the first phase of the project is already underway, with the acquisition of two portable fire pumps capable of handling 1,000 gallons per minute, through a $270,000 investment. The procurement process is expected to take about seven months.

The agency is covering all the costs associated with the entire project, including phase two, he said.

In an interview with News is my Business, Pizá explained that the improvements to the loading dock’s fire extinguishing systems have been necessary since 2003, when the US Coast Guard approached the agency with concerns that the aging infrastructure was not capable of producing enough pressure and water to put out fires.

“Many years have passed, and Ports has has lagged somewhat in tempering all of the fire control systems to federal regulations,” said Pizá, noting that the area, its tenants and private maritime operators have equipment in place to be able to put out a fire, but the mechanisms in place do not comply with federal requirements.

Among other things, the federal agency requires a minimum pressure of 70 pound-force per square inch. The area currently generates between 60 and 65 PSI, he said.

The equipment will be managed by Port staff in coordination with the Fire Department personnel and will be located on the platform between docks E and F and between docks K and L, he said.

“After conducting studies to identify compliance with the applicable codes, and with the endorsement of the Puerto Rico Fire Department, we will install two portable fire pumps in this first phase of the project,” said Pizá, noting that upgrading the fire control systems at the San Juan port, where 85% of Puerto Rico’s cargo comes in, has been on the radar since he took office in 2019.

The second phase of the project, which is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2022 when infrastructure for a permanent fire suppression system will be built. This will include tanks, cisterns, pumps, hydrants, and buried pipeline through the 250-foot-wide platform that runs from docks C to O, Pizá said.

The bidding and the awarding of contracts is expected to take place in 2023, giving way to construction that is estimated to be completed in the first quarter of 2024. The portable pumps will then be relocated to other areas, said Pizá.

“With this project, the existing infrastructure will be optimized, and we’ll have a system capable of supplying water in the hydrants with the flow and volume required for this cargo handling area so essential for the island,” said Pizá.

The Puerto Nuevo ports area has as its main tenants cargo operators Trailer Bridge, Luis Ayala Colón & sucrs Inc., Island Stevedoring, TOTE Maritime, Puerto Rico Terminal and New Fortress Energy.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 27 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 segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.
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