Puerto Rico Tourism Projects May Boost And Compete With South Florida Ports
By Frank Norton
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Port of Miami operatives see two $1 billion development projects in Puerto Rico enhancing business and trade flow in South Florida and the Caribbean.
The commonwealth’s government formed a partnership with private enterprises to build and operate the Puerto Rico Convention Center, scheduled for completion in 2004, and the Port of the Americas, set to open as a transshipment hub in 2007.
The convention center, to become the largest in the Americas, is part of a 115-acre urban development project that is to include hotels, casinos, office space, restaurants and a housing development, said Edgardo Torres, Puerto Rico’s secretary for strategic projects.
Plans call for the port to serve as what in the industry is called a feeder hub on the island’s southern coast to move cargo between giant Post-Panamax ships and smaller freighters serving Caribbean and Latin American ports.
Local business trade operatives said the convention center may boost traffic at Miami international Airport as business and group travelers pass through Miami to get to the center.
They said an extra feeder link could also help cut shipment times and ultimately bring goods to market faster and more cheaply.
"I think it will only be a good thing," said Brooks Royster, CEO of the Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co. "Additional transshipment ports have always improved transit time in the past. At least that’s what happened with Freeport" in the Bahamas.
He said Puerto Rico is also an important trading partner with the US and the additional facilities should be seen as a strategic asset.
"There was talk years ago, when Freeport was coming online, that there would be competition for us," said Trenae Floyd, Port of Miami media representative. "However we have seen our TEUs steadily increase throughout the past years."
The TEU, a 20-foot cargo container unit, is the industry standard for measuring the volume of cargo through a port.
In fiscal 1999 TEU’s through Miami’s port totaled 777,821. That figure climbed to 868,178 in 2000 after the new Freeport port opened and 955,671 in 2001.
"This is a great opportunity to capitalize on Puerto Rico’s economic and political stability that comes out of a 100-year relationship with the US," said Raul Duany of the Puerto Rican Professional Association of South Florida.