Algarve ports management becomes ‘guinea pig’ for State reform

With the government’s full agenda for national ports due to be outlined in Sines on Monday, minister for the sea Ana Paula Vitorino was joined by deputy prime minister Eduardo Cabrita in Portimão yesterday (Friday) to announce an “absolute novelty” – the creation of a new commission to redesign management of Algarve ports just as €30 million is ploughed into their transformation.

The bulk of the money will go towards works needed to make Portimão more cruise ship friendly, while the rest will be used to turn run-down Faro port into a swanky new marina.

The nitty-gritty involves ‘future decisions’ being shared between all 16 borough councils in the guise of AMAL (the intermunicipal community of the Algarve), fisheries company Docapesa, and APS (the current Sines and Algarve ports authority).

As Vitorino explained, this is a “unique and different protocol”, “not simply decentralisation for municipalities, but also a challenge for the region” because it transfers management as well as strategic planning.

Councils will be able to know what investments are on the way, and “where we are going to find the sources of finance”, she said.

“We are going to transfer this kind of nautical management to councils elsewhere”, she added. “But it will be much more on a case by case basis.

“Only in the Algarve will there be this regional logic, in which all marinas and ports (whether commercial or otherwise) will make up a new entity, the management of which will be presided over by borough councils through AMAL”.

To be dubbed “Portos do Algarve”, the new entity has now to be carefully thought-out and planned.

Meantime, the government intends to see €30 million ploughed into transforming Portimão and Faro ports by 2020.

Half the money will come from “national sources”, and the rest from community funding, Vitorino told her audience which, reports Sulinformação website, included a number of Algarve mayors, councillors and “representatives of regional and national entities connected to the ports and sea”.

The onus of work in Portimão will be on “more than tripling the number of passengers by 2030”, the minister stressed, calling the signing of the new protocol “a fantastic moment”.

AMAL president and mayor of Tavira Jorge Botelho agreed, saying: “We are making history. We will prove that municipalities can do things a great deal better, with less conflicts, better management, spending less money and still being friends of investors.

“AMAL is strongly committed to the success of this project”, he added, while Portimão mayoress Isilda Gomes, who hosted the occasion, said what was being done was “a great happiness for all Algarvian mayors, and especially for the people of Portimão”.

The way ahead now is for the government’s plans to be “discussed by the national association of municipalities until the end of January” so that formats can be applied “in the next municipal cycle”, explained deputy PM Cabrita.

“Mayors who are elected in October 2017 will have new competencies which will be reflected in financial terms in the State Budget for 2018”, he added.

Comments at the end of Sulinformação’s text on the ministers’ visit suggest however that the jury could be ‘out’ over whether or not this brave new protocol will make the necessary differences that Algarve ports need.

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