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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

ATI to build new barge for cargo transport to Vieques, Culebra



Conrad Shipyards in Orange, Texas has previously contracted to build transit vessels for the Puerto Rico government, including the passenger and vehicle ferry MV Isla Bonita. (conradindustries.com)

By The Star Staff


The Integrated Transit Authority (ATI) has awarded a contract for the construction of a barge that will strengthen the maritime transportation and cargo network to Vieques and Culebra.


“Incorporating this new vessel to the ATI fleet represents a significant advance for transportation between the islands of Vieques and Culebra,” Transportation and Public Works (DTOP) Secretary Eileen M. Vélez Vega said. “With its greater load capacity, we will improve the efficiency and punctuality of services. Also, we will strengthen economic development and the quality of life of residents and visitors. This initiative underscores our commitment to providing safe, reliable and sustainable transportation solutions for all.”


ATI Executive Director Josué Menéndez Agosto added that the project is “yet another of the capital improvements to integrated transportation services” under the current administration.


“This acquisition represents a significant advance, given that the new barge will be owned by ATI, which eliminates the need to resort to rentals and, consequently, leads to considerable savings in terms of leasing expenses,” he said.


The barge is custom-made according to the needs identified by the administration of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia as part of the Puerto Rico Maritime Transportation Service Project. The project is supported with a $2.8 million allocation of federal funds, and led by ATI, which is being funded for the first time by the United States Maritime Administration’s America’s Maritime Route program.


Menéndez Agosto said the barge will help overcome the limitations of the current cargo vessel, which can only reach Vieques. Culebra is currently serviced by vessels that combine passengers and cargo. The barge to be built will not only be able to dock in Culebra due to its draft, but will also be able to more efficiently carry heavy cargo, such as construction equipment, tanker trucks, and fuel, among others, which will contribute to a better quality of life for residents.


The design and construction of the barge, as well as its transportation to the island, has a cost of $5.2 million in combined funds. It will be manufactured by Conrad Shipyards in Orange, Texas, and must undergo inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard and certifications issued by the American Bureau of Shipping. Menéndez Agosto pointed out that the aim is to standardize the maritime service fleet as part of the ATI’s transformation and reengineering plans.


A few months ago, the ATI began the process of acquiring four passenger vessels for the route between Ceiba and the offshore island municipalities at a cost of $70 million. The first is expected to be delivered at the end of this year.


This is in addition to other large-scale projects, such as constructing a permanent ferry terminal on the grounds of the former Roosevelt Roads base in Ceiba. Currently, a temporary installation is being used due to the damage that the old structure, located in Fajardo, sustained after the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

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