WITH planned reform work now approved and no delays on the horizon, we are now in a position to ensure that the port of Palma will be able to function perfectly well until the year 2010, always assuming that nothing unforeseen comes up, declared Joan Verger, President of the Ports Authority. Verger was explaining in detail the projects which the Ministry of Public Works has just authorised with a 2004 budget of 190'217'000 euros. Of this figure, 14'269'000 has been allocated to Palma; 405'000 for Alcudia; 391'000 for Ibiza; 2'200'000 for La Savina on Formentera and 1'220'000 euros for the port of Mahón on Minorca. Verger confirmed that the growth and development of Palma's port doesn't depend solely on the Ports Authority because other factors are involved, as in the case of the Americas Cup. Were this event to have been held in Palma, it would have significantly accelerated the process of reform work in order to get the port ready to meet the demands of this prestigious international sailing championship. The Cup will eventually go to another port as Palma was discounted in its bid to host the event. Then there are other issues which affect the port in Palma because it has to be considered as an integral part of the changing face of the Balearic capital as a whole. It cannot remain isolated from development elsewhere in the city. In order to meet these challenges, we have to be ready, possibly next week to meet with representatives from the Balearic government and the City Council. Then we have to prepare ourselves for the Olympic games which will be held in Madrid in 2012 since Palma has chosen to host the water sports events. Verger needs to know more about the plans of Palma City Council to construct an underground roadway along the Paseo Marítimo as far as the Paseo de Sagrera and also the possibility that the commercial wharf esplanade, lying closest to the city centre, will be the site of a large leisure complex, a scheme has been on the table for some time. A competition was held to judge architectural contributions, plans and scale models from all over Spain, but then suddenly everything faded into the background. If the leisure complex is located here, then we will have to transfer to the West dock all the activity of loading and unloading of merchandise, as well as repair and maintenance work. Verger was clear when he commented we are open to any suggestion, always bearing in mind that our primary function is that of a port and certain activities, such as movement of cargo ships and passengers to and from ferries and cruise ships, would have to be guaranteed. From this point of view, it's of no use to me to have a fine selection of bars, cafés and restaurants in the area if there then remains no room to unload cargo vessels. The Ports Authority President, is in no doubt, however, that as of the year 2010, the port of Palma will have to be significantly larger than it is now because if each year port activity grows by five percent, this means that within six years, we will have witnessed a 25 percent growth. It is evident that the present port infrastructure would not be able to support such growth.
The reforms that have been given the go ahead will allow for the return of passenger movement on the old wharf, such as used to be the case until the time when the Paraires wharf was built. However, that doesn't mean the jetty will be limited only to that kind of transit. Increasingly, shipping companies are opting for mixed handling systems that encompass both passengers and cargo. Some organisations that currently only deal in cargo, are considering incorporating such systems into their operating structure. This means that port activity is going to become more complicated in the future because the same handling areas are going to be allocated to both people and goods. Various measures will have to be put in place so that there are no problems arising out of this. This will be in the case with the enlargement of the Moll Vell (Old Wharf), which is the specific area that had been reserved to service The Americas Cup activity. It is there that ships transporting passengers and cargo will unload onto platforms or lorries, the same as now happens at the Paraires dock, whose wharf will be lengthened in 2006 so that it can handle two more cruise ships on either side. And then room for growth will have to be found, I don't know how because that is a question for technical experts and of the proposals of the City Council and Balearic government.
The budget recently approved by the Ministry will allow for the extension of the south esplanade of the commercial wharfs. The new Passeig de la Riba will be built at a cost of 8'669'000 euros; the construction of a new ferry terminal for passengers and cargo on the old wharf, in the place where the lighthouse is now situated, will be completed at a cost of 3'717'000 euros; the fitting out of the old laundry will be undertaken to the tune of 682'000 euros; the reinforcement of the Poniente wharf walkways, and the upgrading of ferry terminal number 4 are also on the agenda.