Ports Authority wants to get more value from its assets


V Port Authority (APPR) It seeks options to optimize its assets, including regional ports and airports, with strategies ranging from expropriation and leasing to public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Faced with a crisis caused by a conflict between staff and management between Luis Ayala Colon’s company, the operator of the San Juan Pier, and the Dockers ‘Union – International Dockers’ Association (ILA Local 1740) – Ports Authority is looking at various options to ensure that goods are available on the island first. necessities and products.

One option being assessed by APPR CEO Joel Pisa Batiz is the expropriation of two cranes owned by Puerto Rico Terminals, a company that emerged from the merger of Luis Ayala Colón and Tote Maritime, which are currently not functioning on government grounds. To make a decision, the government will be required to pay the asset at market value, the estimated value of which averages $ 3.5 million to $ 5 million, and act as an intermediary for a public purpose.

While the official admitted to EL VOCERO that they have considered this option, he understands that the best alternative for Puerto Ricans is to bring in a private company to acquire these assets and lease them to the Port Authority.

“Thus, the competition is intensifying. 1.4 million wagons arrive on the island, and historically there have been no more than three container packing companies operating here. Because of the volume that is being worked on, this is a market reality, ”said Pisa.

The official explained that the port authority has signed an agreement with the stevedore and maritime cargo company Puerto Terminals to open up their space in the Puerto Nuevo port area so that other companies can take advantage of the loading docks. This meant for the agency to liberalize the M, N and O docks for use by third parties, which means 19 ropes returned by the government of Puerto Rico, an area that was used to receive the large numbers of vehicles that arrived on the island.

The parties have already held the first meeting to discuss possible negotiations, and in the coming days, according to Pisa, a second meeting can be held with the staff of Puerto Terminals, whose offices are located in Jacksonville.

“At this second meeting, we want to know the intended intention of the private company interested in purchasing the cranes and the status of the proposal. If an interested investor appears right now, tomorrow I will sign a lease agreement, which will lead to increased competitiveness, ”said the Ports executive director.

Pisa said they are tracking other scenarios besides competition in the stevedoring business. He stressed that there are already enough white elephants in the government to add another, hinting at the fact that the agency’s economic conditions are not the best, especially when they are just starting to recover from a $ 40 million loss to the blow. caused by the covid-19 pandemic.

“We now have some liquidity with the activation of cruise liners and airlines, but we need to reorient our priorities. We must not forget that we have 575 employees, whose salaries come from the agency, ”said the head of the port department. He added that the purchase of cranes and their maintenance are very expensive, to which must be added labor, while the financial liquidity of the agency is not the best.

The agency estimates that the acquisition of the two new cranes, as well as the installation of the rails and other operating costs, represent an initial investment of over $ 50 million. Acquiring existing cranes and getting them up and running represents an initial investment of between $ 7 million and $ 10 million.

Department of Economic Development and Trade (DDEC) Secretary Manuel Sidre agreed with Pisa’s proposals because he understands that government participation in competitions at the docks would be an inappropriate interference.

“This is not a message kept up to date. In an emergency, when there is no other way out, it can be confiscated, but this is not the case. This is an opportunity for the private sector to evaluate this alternative as a business given the fact that 90% of what we consume is delivered by sea, ”Sidre said.

Port of the Americas

While Puerto Las Américas Rafael Cordero Santiago in Ponce does not come under the jurisdiction of the Ports Authority, Pisa told EL VOCERO that by the end of September or early November, using FEMA funds, they will be powered by two cranes. port facilities that will allow containers to be dropped.

Although the number of cranes in Ponce is limited compared to 18 cranes in the metropolitan area – three on Isla Grande and 15 in San Juan – the port minister stressed that this would help in any emergency.

“Two taps are better than nothing. This allows you to load goods in the event of any events in the metropolis. Perhaps a slower process, but effective, ”he said.

Sidre, who chairs the board of directors of Puerto Las Américas, reaffirms the need to fix, modernize and make it available as a resilience option, and consider using other ports such as Mayagüez and Yabucoa. “There are five ports on the island, of which only one is currently operating,” he said.

Regional airports

The Ports director explained that since February 11 last year, a government policy has been put in place to identify the private operators who operate, operate and develop regional airports on the island.

“We all agreed that they cannot remain in the hands of the government. In this regard, the creation of a public-private alliance was ordered according to different P3 models for applicants. This study should be released by the end of December, ”said Pisa.

Meanwhile, officials from the municipality of Ponce reject the creation of a PPP for Mercedita Airport and have presented a proposal from 14 mayors of the southwest region, together with universities and professional organizations, to take responsibility for its development.

“The Autonomous Municipality of Ponce opposes the provision of PPPs, using a model imposed by the Port Authority through a formula that would integrate the exposure, marketing, maintenance and development of regional airports in a single effort and within a single private company.” – said the director of economic development of Ponce Jean Paul Gonzalez.

“This arrangement would be detrimental and detrimental to the interests of Mercedita International Airport, as the public policy of the company that runs the APT will take the same position that has pervaded the Port Authority for decades,” he added.

Gonzalez argued that the old way of doing business retains a centralized focus on airports in the metropolis. He understands that Ports has used the funds to improve and expand as well as efforts to increase the number of flights and passenger capacity in an arbitrary and exceptional manner, as has happened with the seaports.

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