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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Island airports, ports made more resilient with significant investments

Mercedita International Airport in Ponce

By The Star Staff

Puerto Rico Ports Authority Executive Director Joel A. Pizá Batiz announced Monday that the island’s main regional airports and seaports are more resilient at the outset of the hurricane season thanks to the acquisition of equipment, infrastructure repairs and other complementary actions to safeguard operational safety.

“We feel confident in the management carried out to optimize the operations of our main regional airports, not only for the emergency cases that usually occur in the hurricane season, but also for the operations that are carried out daily in them and that have a significant contribution to the Puerto Rican economy,” Pizá Batiz said.

The official said $572,547 in funds obtained through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was invested in the purchase of five generators of high quality, capacity and durability. They are being distributed as follows: one 150-kilowatts (kW) generator for the passenger terminal at the Isla Grande airport; one 500-kW generator for the passenger terminal and two 250-kW generators for the Air Rescue and Operations buildings at Mercedita Airport in Ponce, respectively; and one 500-kW generator for the passenger terminal at Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla that is in the process of installation. Arecibo Airport also has a new power generator in operation.

Pizá Batiz also stressed that new equipment was acquired to strengthen the Ports Authority’s maintenance resources for green areas. Some of the equipment acquisitions made in the past three years for regional airports are two tractors purchased at a cost of $204,000 with Ports’ own funds, including 15-foot drills and three 5-foot Kubota-type pruners with 360-degree turning capacity valued at $60,000.

“We have already delivered two tractors to the Antonio (Nery) Juarbe airport in Arecibo and the Eugenio María de Hostos airport in Mayagüez, respectively,” Pizá Batiz said. “The José Aponte De la Torre airport in Ceiba, for its part, already has one of three 5-foot Kubota-type mowers with 360-degree turning capacity in operation.”

In addition, a backhoe tractor with turbo diesel engine, enclosed cab, air conditioner and eight-pound fire extinguisher was obtained with an investment of $117,985. A platform for the mobilization of heavy equipment was also received. That equipment is part of the maintenance program of the Aviation Bureau’s Conservation Division. This month the division will receive two dump trucks with a capacity of eight to ten cubic yards and six-cylinder engines, acquired with a total investment of $223,828.00.

The Ports chief highlighted other actions taken in the past two years such as the acquisition of two new cargo vehicles; tools; high-tech intervention, rescue, protection and miscellaneous equipment for the Air Rescue units of Ponce and Aguadilla, with an investment of $322,000, which will facilitate more rapid response to incidents; the renewal of the authority’s vehicle fleet with 17 new units obtained with a $517,043 investment in combined funds from the CARES Act, Sharing Funds and Ports’ own funds; and new air visual navigation aid systems that will increase the efficiency and safety of operations for pilots at island airports.

Regarding the port facilities, Pizá Batiz noted that “all the tourist docks in the Port of San Juan have an inspected electrical generator; the operators of the cargo terminals in Puerto Nuevo were directed to review their emergency plans and the captaincies of Arecibo, Guánica, Guayanilla/Peñuelas, Guayama and Yabucoa, as well as their concessionaires, have updated their security plans.”

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