Puerto Rican shipper announces first automated passport control system on board a ferry
SAN JUAN – Néstor González, president of the Puerto Rican shipping business conglomerate Ferries del Caribe, Marine Express and Priority RoRo, announced the island is now at the forefront of U.S. border entry process mechanisms with its Automated Passport Control (APC) system on board the San Juan-Santo Domingo ferry.
Secretary of State Luis G. Rivera Marín, accompanied by federal officials of the agencies comprising Homeland Security, indicated the Puerto Rican company Ferries del Caribe is the first ferry vessel in the world to offer the APC service, which was approved and installed in coordination with U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP).
An APC kiosk was installed on board the vessel M/V Kydon, operated by Ferries del Caribe, which navigates between the ports of San Juan and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, transporting passengers, vehicles and cargo, three times a week.
Travelers use the self-service kiosk to respond to CBP inspection-related questions and submit biographic information. APC is a free service, does not require pre-registration or membership, “and maintains the highest levels of protection when it comes to the handling of personal data or information,” according to the CBP
The director of the Port of San Juan Field Operations Area for the CBP, Edwin Cruz, said the automated kiosk decreases wait times, is easy to use, does not require the hand filing of Customs Declaration 6059B, and one person will be able to complete the transaction for all members of a family traveling together in the same crossing. However, each passenger must provide their biometric data and verify their identity through their fingerprints.
Puerto Rico Economic Development (DDEC by its Spanish acronym) Secretary Manuel Laboy announced that Priority RoRo expanded its weekly cargo service, connecting its ships from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic with St. Thomas and St. Croix, USVI; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; St. Martin, St. Kitts and feeder service to Anguilla, St. Barts, Saba, St. Eustatius, Martinique and Guadalupe, using Puerto Rico as headquarters.
Laboy explained that with Priority RoRo’s ships based at the Port of San Juan and additional support from the Ferries del Caribe cruise that transports Marine Express cargo between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican business conglomerate offers three weekly departures to and from Santo Domingo and St. Thomas, two weekly departures to and from St. Martin and St. Croix, more weekly departures to the rest of the islands mentioned above, and “achieving the shortest times in the cargo market between Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands.”
The DDEC secretary stressed that with the expansion of its service, the shipping business conglomerate became an important ally to dozens of Puerto Rican companies wanting to export their products and services to the sister islands in a cost-effective manner, especially in these critical periods when many of these locations will need foreign companies for their rebuilding efforts after hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Join anti-terrorism public-private partnership program
The executive director of the Puerto Rico Ports Authority, Nelson J. Pérez, accompanied by Homeland Security officials, said Marine Express and Priority Ro Ro became part of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), a voluntary public-private sector partnership program of the CBP.
Likewise, the Ports executive indicated he was pleased with the training process for all personnel on ground and onboard vessels, which translates into greater security in the services.
He added that the ships were inspected and a strategic alliance between the shipping companies of the group was created to assist in preventing infiltration of terrorist cells or illegal materials at the destinations where Marine Express and Priority RoRo operate.
The interim executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., Carla Campos, and Ferries del Caribe’s González, expressed their joint efforts to enhance access between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic through the bridge the ferry creates, which allows Puerto Rico to capture the market that arrives to the Dominican Republic as an additional alternative to existing maritime and air access routes between both countries.
Campos said both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic offer visitors unique and different experiences that can be perfectly complemented to attract European, Canadian, Asian and Latin American passengers who visit other sister islands in the Caribbean.
Both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, in coordination with the hotel sector, transporters and all components of the visitor economy of both islands, in the next months can attract the thousands of tourists who had scheduled their vacations for the Virgin Islands and Lesser Antilles
González assured his shipping business will take on a leading role with its maritime cargo operations in helping rebuild the sister islands. He emphasized that Puerto Rico has an unparalleled opportunity for its companies to excel and be cost-effective by exporting their products and services to help with the reconstruction of the islands.