Seaborne moving to Puerto Rico


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In another blow to St. Croix's economy, Seaborne Airlines announced Wednesday that it is moving its headquarters off St. Croix to Puerto Rico.

The move will mean the loss of about 88 jobs on St. Croix, but routes to and from the Virgin Islands will not be affected.

The company said Wednesday that the move will be complete by March 2014 and generate a total of 400 jobs in Puerto Rico, 150 of those in the next three months.

Seaborne also plans to add new routes from the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan to St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as to St. Maarten and to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Officials said there will be no changes to existing routes.

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said the commonwealth provided $16 million in incentives to Seaborne, with the state Economic Development Bank becoming a minority shareholder in the company.

Seaborne Airlines Director of Business Development Michael Ritzi said the St. Croix jobs that are affected will be administrative jobs, including customer service and reservations.

"Our employees are all being offered the opportunity to move and any new jobs created, they will have first option," Ritzi said.

"Our employees are our number one concern right now in this and we are making sure our employees are care of."

Ritzi said no changes are expected to the airline's seaplane operations either from for seaplane terminals or the airports.

The decision is part of a recent push to expand the airline's reach, taking over much of the Caribbean market formerly held by American Eagle.

The expansion was made possible in part by a $4 million loan from the V.I.'s Government Employees Retirement System, which is currently in default.

GERS Administrator Austin Nibbs said Wednesday that he was not notified of the announcement.

Seaborne has not paid anything on the loan since the second quarter of this year, according to Nibbs.

He said the airline did broach the subject of moving the headquarters to Puerto Rico and forming a new subsidiary. GERS board members told airline officials that they would need consent from the board to do that.

"They would have to ask us for consent, and they have not asked us," Nibbs said.

"The board has not acted on any request as far as moving to Puerto Rico or forming a subsidiary in Puerto Rico."

Nibbs said Seaborne owes more than $4 million in principle, interest and legal fees, although he refused to give an exact amount.

Last week, Seaborne officials requested GERS provide them with a payoff amount for the loan. That was done, but no payment was made, Nibbs said.

Monday, Nibbs sent Seaborne a letter demanding payment in full by today. As of press time, no payments had been received.

The GERS board is meeting today on St. Croix and will be discussing the Seaborne matter.

Ritzi said the airline requested the payoff amount and it took one week for GERS to get back to them. He said it is unfair to expect the payment just two days after getting the payoff amount.

"Seaborne requested a pay-off, and we're in the process of paying the loan off," Ritzi said.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Seaborne Airlines prepares to move to Puerto Rico

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Seaborne Airlines is moving its headquarters from the U.S. Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico.

The company said Wednesday that the move will be complete by March 2014 and generate a total of 400 jobs in Puerto Rico.

Seaborne also plans to add new routes from the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan to St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as to St. Maarten and to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Officials said there will be no changes to existing routes.

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said the U.S. territory provided $16 million in incentives to Seaborne, with the state Economic Development Bank becoming a minority shareholder in the company.

He said the move is expected to generate a total of more than $85 million in revenue for the government by 2015.

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