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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

San Juan Bay dredging begins to enhance cargo and tourism movement



The San Juan Bay dredging project is intended to facilitate the development of the maritime economy through the expansion of cargo, fuel and cruise operations. (Gov. Pedro Pierluisi/Facebook)

By The Star Staff


The $62 million dredging of San Juan Bay began Wednesday, part of a project to facilitate the movement of cargo and cruise ships.


Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, Puerto Rico Ports Authority Director Joel Pizá Batiz, and the commander of the Group VIPR Work Plan of the South Atlantic Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Col. Charles Decker, announced the start of the construction work to dredge, deepen and widen the Bay of San Juan. The project will facilitate the development of the maritime economy through the expansion of cargo, fuel and cruise operations.


“The Bay of San Juan is our most important port, and without a doubt, it is a commercial epicenter and is strategic throughout the Caribbean basin,” the governor said. “Today we are very excited to announce that the company Curtin Martin Corporation will begin work on the long-awaited dredging.”


The comprehensive project includes the deepening of the Anegado and Army Terminal canals, the widening of the Army Terminal canal, and the expansion of the San Antonio canal to allow significant advances in the docking maneuvers of ships, freighters, barges and cruise ships, which generates savings in maritime transportation, shortening maneuver times, reducing pollutant emissions and obtaining energy savings.


“In addition, it will allow larger ships to enter the Bay of San Juan,” the governor said.


“From my time as resident commissioner in Washington, I advocated tirelessly before the United States Army Corps of Engineers so that this project was a reality and in 2014 we achieved the allocation of $800,000 to carry out studies and inspections of the current depth of the bay that served to determine the extent of the dredging,” Pierluisi said.


After its congressional authorization last January, the funds were allocated under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. The Ports Authority worked with USACE en route to signing the memorandum of understanding that made the work of dredging, cleaning, deepening and widening the bay’s navigation canals viable.


The investment of more than $62 million is broken down into a $44.6 million allocation from USACE and $17.7 million from Puerto Rico government funds.


Pizá Batiz emphasized that the Ports Authority took advantage of the project to dredge the bay bottom off cruise ship docks 1, 2 and 3; the Pan American docks I and II; piers 11 to 14 in Puerta de Tierra; and the docks of the Puerto Nuevo port zone, where Puerto Rico receives 80% of its imports.


“The mere fact of increasing the global competitiveness of the port is a priceless added value in the short and long term,” the ports chief said. “This will allow the future entry of larger cruise ships, will improve maritime traffic with ships that transport gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, and will encourage cruise ships to reduce the time of their docking maneuvers, generating an economic benefit due to reduction in transportation costs.”


Meanwhile, Decker stated that “we are eager to begin this new phase in the dredging and deepening project for Puerto de San Juan Bay together with the Water Authority.”


Our project will result in a port improvement that will meet the modern demands of the growing global and local economy, while protecting our nation’s vital natural and environmental resources,” the USACE officer said.


For those purposes, officials granted a contract to Curtin Maritime, who will use the latest generation vessel DB Avalon, the largest and one of the most efficient dredging machines in North America.


Once the work in San Juan Bay is completed, operations will be faster and safer, as well as effective, which will offer cascading benefits for the communities in Puerto Rico, Decker added.


Some 2.8 million cubic yards of seafloor and material are anticipated to be removed. The material will be deposited two nautical miles from the island in the Atlantic Ocean.


“These efforts are part of a comprehensive economic development strategy that seeks to expand our ability to attract maritime traffic, including for the tourism industry of cruise ships,” the governor said. “The teamwork between the Ports Authority and the Corps of Engineers has been key to achieving this project, including design assistance and coordination with the entire community and maritime industry of the island.”

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