Even though this is a relatively old article, it's just so depressing to hear, and I had to share it and vent a little.
Ponce’s Port of the Américas’ transshipment potential rapidly fading away - at CaribbeanBusinessPR.com
The Port of the Americas (aka the Port of Ponce) is PR's opportunity to become a vital link in
world trade, the only deep-water port in the Caribbean that could handle the super-huge PANAMAX container ships that traverse the Panama Canal. We were billed to become the "Singapore of the Caribbean". We were set to reclaim our position as the 1st Port of the New World, the geographic axis connecting North America, South America, and Europe, and with the traffic from the Panama Canal, Asia as well. This is PR's chance to grow rich and powerful off of basically just being there, sitting in the ocean exactly where it's always been, which is the best way to get rich.
For years I've been touting the POA as PR's greatest opportunity for economic and political advancement. As the first port of call for PANAMAX cargo ships coming east from the Canal, we're in the perfect position to really take advantage of the business opportunities, and unique among other Caribbean ports in it's ability to handle it. Cargo unloaded in Ponce can be easily shipped cross-island to the Port of San Juan (or even the Port of Mayaguez [or even a renovated and upgraded Roosevelt Roads]) on our First World-level highway system for easy loading onto smaller regional or inter-Atlantic cargo ships. Our close relationship with the US and regular cargo freight to-and-from (one of the principal benefits of the Jones Act), allows us instant profit from the world's biggest importer. The easing of some of the restrictions of the Jones Act would also allow us to do a great deal of transhipment to our regional neighbors in the Caribbean and South America, and potential for expansion to Europe, Africa, and the Mediterranean.
This door swings both ways, as the major powers of the Atlantic would be shipping their products to PR's ports to be loaded on those PANAMAX ships that had just been emptied to transport back to the Pacific. Through this scheme, PR becomes the heart of the global transshipment circulatory system, everything travels through our ventricles on their way to both sides of the body (i.e. the two hemispheres).
The economic benefits go beyond just bolstering the shipping industry. PR can explode as an advance manufacturing economy, which it's currently been trying to do for some time. Raw materials coming from Asia and South America would arrive in PR, hauled to factories on island, where they can be manufactured, assembled, or refined cheaper than in the US. Not to mention, the variety of products for purchase on the island will increase greatly and be far cheaper, as we would be getting cargo direct from factories in the Far East instead of having to get them rerouted through mainland American ports before they end up here at a higher surcharge. A great example of this would be cars; purchasing a car in PR is more expensive than in the mainland because it must be shipped from the states. With the POA, we would be the first stop for all the Hondas and Nissans and Daewoos and other Asian automobiles.
The political benefits are what's really key here. Increased importance of Puerto Rico to global commerce means increased attention from the world. There will be a necessity for other countries to deal with PR directly, instead of through the US, and a need for the US-PR relationship to be better defined so both parties can take full advantage of the opportunity. This could mean greater inclusion in regional trade organizations like CARICOM, and greater benefit from international banks and foreign investors. With a stronger independent economy, there would be less reliance on Federal funds or American corporations, and that allows us to tackle the Status issue without worrying what we might lose and instead focus on what we might gain from it's resolution.
Even with other ports outpacing us to pick up the traffic, a megaport in PR still has numerous advantages, the same ones that made it attractive in the first place for the development. PR still maintains the best infrastructure and best telecommunications network in the Caribbean, it maintains a larger concentration of advanced manufacturing plants and the advanced educational institutions to man them, and while experiencing a recession, still maintains one of the most competitive economies in Latin America. It's close relationship with the US is also the strongest sell for American import/export firms and foreign companies seeking to sell in the US.
The future of Puerto Rico can be very bright, but this future can only be realized when we take advantage of what we have to offer the world. The Port of the Americas is only the first step in realizing that goal, but it is the most vital step and pretty much the only shot we have of meeting our potential as a maritime power. Here's hoping the people in charge realize this soon...