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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

FEMA allocates $54 million for Ports Authority

By John McPhaul

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded over $54 million in public assistance funds to the Puerto Rico Ports Authority, the government agency that oversees and manages air and sea transportation on the island. This obligation will allow repairs at the Puerto Nuevo Seaport, Yabucoa Harbor, Rafael Hernandez International Airport in Aguadilla, and José Aponte de la Torre Airport in Ceiba.

Funding includes more than $4.6 million to cover hazard mitigation works at each site, adding strength and resiliency to permanent work to prevent similar damage from future events.

“It is very important for Puerto Rico to maintain its port infrastructure and airports in optimum conditions, given that our economy relies heavily on maritime and air transportation. These obligations will help strengthen important facilities that support our merchandise trade economy and our public safety, by scrutinizing incoming containers,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero.

The Puerto Nuevo Pier is one of the busiest on the island, with more than 30,000 containers or nearly 300,000 tons of merchandise imported every month by local and U.S.-based shipping companies.

In the case of the Puerto Nuevo seaport, over $27.8 million will fund construction at six loading docks, the port’s main roadway and the Trafon Building – a two-story, corrugated metal warehouse that serves as one of the main storage facilities for perishable food items.

Nearly $2.8 million is earmarked for hazard mitigation work that includes strengthening metal rooftops, improving exterior metal panels, and installing anchoring systems and impact-resistant windows.

Meanwhile, José Aponte de la Torre Regional Airport, located in the former Roosevelt Roads Navy base in Ceiba, was awarded nearly $16.5 million in public assistance funds to repair its main terminal, pilot school, storage and hangars. This amount includes nearly $800,000 for hazard mitigation repairs, to prevent or reduce future damages from similar events.

“Restoration efforts aim at the public welfare and public interest, which is why these permanent improvements to repair and mitigate damage caused by Hurricane Maria will significantly benefit the Ports Authority, the Ceiba Airport, the municipalities of Aguadilla and Humacao, and other community groups,” said Joel A. Pizá Batiz, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Ports Authority.

In addition, FEMA awarded over $5.5 million to repair the main terminal building at Rafael Hernández International Airport, formerly known as the Ramey Airforce Base. Located in Aguadilla, the Rafael Hernández International Airport is the largest regional air travel facility with more than 1,700 employees and nearly 700,000 passengers during 2022.

In addition to Aguadilla International Airport’s main terminal, FEMA obligated nearly $3.3 million to repair the Air Rescue Unit and Lufthansa Technik Puerto Rico facilities. Lufthansa Technik specializes in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of short and medium-range aircraft.

Furthermore, FEMA obligated more than $1.4 million to repair damage at the Yabucoa Harbor, a commercial maritime shipping facility located at Playa Guayanés that specializes in the storage and distribution of fuel and petroleum derivates, such as diesel, bunker C, jet fuel and gasoline.

This obligation will allow repairs at several structures, including Pier No. 1, the West Wharf, East Wharf and the breakwater area. It provides nearly $231,600 in hazard mitigation repairs to protect against future similar damage.

Manuel A. Laboy Rivera, Executive Director of the Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), said, “in support of the Ports Authority, COR3 advanced $20.5 million through the Working Capital Advance pilot program for multiple reconstruction projects that will transform the ports and airports infrastructure into a modern and resilient one for the socioeconomic benefit of Puerto Rico”.

To date, FEMA has awarded the Puerto Rico Ports Authority nearly $174 million for permanent work projects at various air and sea transportation facilities throughout Puerto Rico.

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