Cruise 1

The cruise pier in Old San Juan. >Archive

It’s election year and opposition intensifies against a P3 process that has been more than two years undergoing with stakeholder involvement throughout its entire course.

Political figures have suddenly gained an interest in the transaction. Some of them have aligned with certain particular interests in opposing a transaction that would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to bring critical infrastructure, from its barely compliant reality, to world class standards.

This is what’s happening right now with regards to the P3 transaction for the Cruise Terminals in San Juan and here comes that odd feeling that you’ve already witnessed this before… I feel a déjà vu.

According to the American Psychological Association, a “déjà vu” is “the feeling that a new event has already been experienced or that the same scene has been witnessed before. The feeling of familiarity may be due to a neurological anomaly, to resemblance between the present and the past scenes[…]”.

Here, the new event would be the P3 concession for the San Juan Bay cruise terminals and the past scene would be the P3 concession for the SJU Airport.

The déjà vu takes me back to 2012. Election year; the New Progressive Party is seeking reelection; a P3 process has been running with a desirability and convenience study (Study) that’s been published for almost two years; but politics, has some opposing the transaction and promising to “revert the privatization” if elected; different stakeholders are genuinely afraid of change and some with private interests use this to their advantage in the public opinion.

The truth today is that the opposing party won the 2012 election, and did no such thing as revert the process, on the contrary, they did what had to be done and closed the deal. Today, we can agree that, although not perfect, our airport is in a significantly better condition that it used to be, complies with FAA regulations and has received hundreds of millions in investment.

People may have forgotten the condition of our airport back then, but the main international airport in Puerto Rico (SJU) needed significant capital and operational improvements to provide maintenance and permit growth, without the means to do so.

As published in the Study, this resembles the reality of San Juan’s Cruise Terminals with hundreds of millions needed for maintenance and improvements.

Both, the airport and the cruise terminal’s P3s share similar key objectives such as: promote capital investments, improve the quality of service to travelers, improve the government’s financial position and support economic development by improving the Island’s position as a destination.

In sum, the end game is developing a world class airport and cruise terminals, both with concessionaires that can balance all interests involved. The one at the airport has proved effective and provides the government with lessons learned to be applied in this new endeavor.

Do we want to maintain the “status quo” or move towards having world class cruise terminal infrastructure and operations?

The enhanced cruise terminals are expected to improve economic conditions on the Island, allow growth in tourism activity, promote economic development and job creation just as the improvement of the airport has done.

I trust that this administration will continue doing what must be done, addressing legitimate concerns and securing the best result for Puerto Rico; and hope that someday everyone may understand that neither projects, nor the people, should be used as political tools to push personal agendas.

May in some years we have one more “deja-vu” when we get to see the results of another bold and necessary project.

Former Public Affairs Secretary of La Fortaleza and Executive Director of Puerto Rico Ports Authority

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