The challenge in shipping commodities and other supplies to Rota won't be resolved unless the existing seaport channel is widened to accommodate bigger vessels, according to Commonwealth Ports Authority seaport manager Maryann Lizama.
Lizama told the ports authority board Friday that the seaport channel cannot accommodate vessels that are longer than 235 feet and that the only way for the port to be accessed by bigger vessels is to widen its channel opening, which will require $15 million, based on a previous CPA study.
“It's going to take $15 million to open and widen the channel,” Lizama told the board.
The limited capacity of the Rota port also prevents smaller vessels from coming in during bad weather, she said.
Sea vessels going to Rota use the west harbor, which Lizama described as somewhat “calm” and “sheltered” compared to the east side, which the Rota municipality wants to develop into a bigger port.
CPA officials said the board has not discussed any plans for this purpose yet.
Board member Barry Toves appealed to the CPA board to identify ways on how the ports authority can help Rota. He pointed out that the port's limited capacity always results in a shortage of commodities and supplies on Rota.
Due to the difficulties of shipping products to Rota, Toves revealed that people are forced to buy their basic commodities at extremely high prices. He disclosed that some storeowners on island, just to get the necessary supplies for their customers, are forced to ship their goods via airplane, which is costly. This extra shipping expense is then passed on to customers.
“We rely heavily on seaport facilities to facilitate our needs. Rota has not enough shipment of commodities and if we do, there's big disparity in prices of products. I guess what I am trying to say here [is] what can CPA do to help alleviate this problem?” asked Toves.
CPA seaports facilities committee chair Benigno Sablan, for his part, said he will talk to private boat owners to see if they are available, even during bad weather, to go down and ship commodities for Rota. But Sablan admitted that due to the present economic state of businesses, it will also be a challenge for CPA to get boat owners who are willing to do it even it means incurring higher expenses.