Talk of a P3 for Vieques and Culebra Ferries Heats Up
SAN JUAN—A Senate hearing on Wednesday revealed that currently there are only three ferry boats providing transportation between the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra and the main island of Puerto Rico, which brought forth talks of setting up a public-private partnership (P3) to better provide services to residents and tourists.
During the hearing held by the Senate’s Labor Relations, Consumer Affairs and Job Creation Committee, its chairman, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Luis Daniel Rivera Filomeno, highlighted that the ferry service incurs a deficit of about $10 million annually from the Puerto Rico government, with the agency in charge of the ferries, the Maritime Transport Authority (MTA), spending about $40 million annually on the service from an allocated budget of $30 million.
“It greatly worries me that, as we speak, the island of Culebra is being heavily promoted as a world-class destination, but once visitors arrive at [the east coast municipality of] Fajardo to take a ferry, there are usually no tickets available, or a ferry is undergoing repairs,” Rivera Filomeno said in a morning AM radio interview with Noti-Uno 630.
Vieques Mayor Victor Emeric defended MTA’s work during the hearing, saying the entity has improved ferry operations since it took over from a private company about a year and a half ago. Although he also acknowledged that there was room for further improvement, he rejected the possibility of a private company taking control of the ferry service.
The Vieques mayor noted that the central government’s P3 Authority is looking into establishing a small-scale public-private partnership for the ferries. The authority is currently gathering proposals from interested companies, and is expected to make an announcement on the matter sometime in October, Emeric added.