Above: a Seaborne plane
By Alexander Britell
MIAMI — St Croix-based regional airline Seaborne Airlines has reached a deal with the government of Puerto Rico to relocate its headquarters to San Juan.
Under the deal, the government of Puerto Rico will take an equity stake in the airline and have two seats on the board of directors. The two sides said the move could create 400 jobs in Puerto Rico, with 150 jobs to come on line in Puerto Rico in the first quarter of 2014.
The move is slated for completion by March of next year, according to the company. Seaborne will be moving its aviation base to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and its administrative offices to the Hato Rey area.
The government of Puerto Rico is investing $16 million in incentives, including $9 million from the Government Development Bank, which will become a shareholder in the company.
The GDB will own 20 percent of Coastal International Airways, Seaborne’s parent company, in convertible preferred shares, according to the government.
The agreement provides for 10 new routes out of San Juan, including eventual service to Antigua, Barbados and Haiti.
Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla said the plan was for Seaborne to invest more than $100 million in Puerto Rico, with a cumulative economic impact in Puerto Rico of $85.8 million by 2015.
Seaborne is adding several new routes from San Juan, with new service already set to begin from La Romana and St Kitts and Nevis, with Punta Cana service planned to launch in February.
In March, Seaborne will begin service from San Juan to St Maarten.
The San Juan routes will be serviced by four additional Saab 340B, 34-seat planes, with a total of 16 Saabs to be based in Puerto Rico.
“There is little that is more important to economic development than global air access,” said Gary Foss, president and chief executive officer of Seaborne Airlines. “This agreement will strengthen Puerto Rico’s ties with the rest of the Caribbean and position Seaborne as being Puerto Rico’s favorite airline, for connecting customers from our partner carriers, or for customers traveling to or from Puerto Rico to neighboring islands.”
“This partnership is important for reconnecting Puerto Rico to the Caribbean islands and also is an investment in jobs, commerce, new business opportunities and economic development,” said Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla. “We have, in a year, recuperated routes that were discontinued during recent years in the Caribbean and now we are strengthening our position as the main hub in the region and connection to the United States.”
The announcement comes about a month after Seaborne announced the signing of an interline agreement with JetBlue, which is also in the midst of what appears to be a major Caribbean expansion.