Arnaldo Misla Burgos, Assistant Manager Administrative Affairs, Puerto Rico Ports Authority, Edwin Betancourt - Profesa Vice President, Luis Vazquez - Camara de Comercio del Sur, Thomas Agrait - Profesa Vice President of Government Affairs, Rafael Gonzalez - Profesa President, José Carmona - Communications Director Puerto Rico Ports Authority, Guiliano Vilanova - Executive Assistant Puerto Rico Ports Authority, Jose Rosa - Sub Director Puerto Rico Ports Authority, Anthony Maceira - Executive Director Puerto Rico Ports Authority

In hopes of continuing the efforts set forth last month to improve emergency response and establish a more effective disaster relief protocol, Puerto Rican Professional Association (Profesa) members met with the Puerto Rico Ports Authority Executive Director Anthony Maceira to discuss the next steps in achieving collaboration.

Present at the meeting was Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce of the South representative Luis Vázquez, joining efforts with Profesa to ensure business continuity if another natural disaster were to hit the island of Puerto Rico.

“Profesa and CCS have joined forces to maintain an active economy after the impact of natural disasters. During the meeting with the Ports Authority, Profesa and CCS presented ideas to ensure the arrival of products to the island in the moment of a crisis,” said Edwin Betancourt, Profesa vice president.

An important outcome of the meeting was the connection achieved among key figures on the island who will be the contacts responding to the protocol established by Profesa, like Carlos Acevedo, P.R. emergency management bureau director (Nmead by its acronym in Spanish), and Eduardo Pagán, TOTE Maritime P.R. president.

Profesa members quickly learned that maritime companies have an active role in operating Puerto Rico’s ports, while the government acts as a landlord, leading Maceira to link maritime company leaders, like TOTE and Crowley, with Profesa members so that a cohesive and organized emergency response protocol can be achieved.

“After the experience we lived with Hurricane Maria, it is essential to coordinate efforts so that the help arrives to the island in the fastest and most organized manner possible, especially when it comes to many non-profit organizations sending supplies at the same time. This meeting with Profesa without a doubt will facilitate help efforts from the diaspora in Florida to the island,” said Maceira.

According to Profesa leaders, the arrival of much of the help that was sent from Florida to the island was never confirmed, which led leaders like Thomas Agrait, Profesa vice president of government affairs and Rafael González, president of Profesa, to act diligently in creating a new plan to make sure that all products sent are rightfully distributed to their destinations.

To ensure the efficiency of all recovery operations during the event of an atmospheric disaster, the idea of seminars was introduced in the meeting Profesa members had with the Jacksonville Port Authority last month. In the meeting with Maceira, the director found it to be an excellent idea. The way this would work is that for each sector or each system that plays a key role in disaster recovery, like maritime companies, seminars will be offered on how to carry out effective procedures. For example, a seminar could be offered by Crowley professionals on how to properly fill out shipping equipment to ensure the arrival of product.

“Who will be providing the resources will be the very institutions that are in charge of each one of the protocols. Profesa will be the facilitator in calling the community or anyone who is interested to assist and take these curses, which will instruct them and let the community know what is their status, what are the processes so that the knowledge isn’t concentrated in just one source, instead, it is distributed. Everyone is informed, and it isn’t a science for anyone involved,” said González.

Among the many things discussed, Profesa members were notified that the port in Ponce will now be open to receive product in case of an emergency, which will avoid product getting clogged in San Juan’s port as it happened in Maria. The smaller airports in Mayagüez and Aguadilla will also be part of emergency response protocol.

“The first step was accepting that we needed better tools and that is what we are here for. Maybe tomorrow there will be a better entity to do the job, but at least we motivated with our efforts agencies, corporations and citizens to see that there are people who remember this, and they are preparing for the next one. We hope none of this will be needed, but if it is, we will be present,” González added.

Contributing reporter for The Weekly Journal. She recently graduated from the University of Tampa where she obtained a Bachelors Degree in Communications and Journalism.

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