TINIAN-Following another successful year of the Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival, Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz continues to push for a roll-on/roll-off ferry system between Saipan and Tinian that he believes will improve interisland commerce and tourism.
Dela Cruz said in an interview that he is pleased to see that Tinian hosted hundreds of visitors not only from Korea and China but also residents from Saipan and Guam.
While there were more festival-goers this year, Dela Cruz argued that Tinian only sees a “slight increase” in its tourist arrivals given the lack of a roll-on/roll-off ferry boat that can bring more guests to the island.
At present, the only means of transportation to Tinian is by three to five-seater aircrafts operated by Star Marianas and Freedom Air.
“I think once we get that roll-on/roll-off ferry, we should be able to bring more people because they can actually drive their vehicles to the ferry and drive out once they come here to Tinian,” he said.
A member of the Commonwealth Transit Authority board, Dela Cruz recognized the challenges of improving Tinian's transportation and making the ferry system a reality.
Tinian suffered when it lost its only ferry service to and from Saipan. Tinian Shipping and Transportation Services Inc., owned by the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino, suspended its services in March 2010. Since then, people who want to visit Tinian can only travel by air.
Dela Cruz said he recommended to the Department of Public Works to do a “two-part” feasibility study on the proposed interisland roll-on/roll-off ferry services.
“One part would be ferry service between Saipan and Tinian because it's close, and the second part would be Rota and Guam,” he told Saipan Tribune.
He cited the dangerous open waters and the lack of passenger movement as the main reasons why a ferry service between Saipan and Rota is not likely to happen.
“A lot of people cannot stand a long voyage from Saipan to Rota. We just don't have the number that can sustain an operation like that. That's why I wanted to recommend something that's small and affordable for the two islands,” he told Saipan Tribune.
Dela Cruz also stressed his efforts to work with the mayors in Guam to have commuter terminals to cut down travel time for local passengers.
He thanked Star Marianas for giving “super discount” to guests who wanted to fly over to Tinian during the Tinian Hot Pepper Festival, a two-day event that highlights the small but highly potent, locally grown pepper donni sali. This year's festival was held at Kammer Beach on Feb. 16 to 17. The annual event is the island's biggest community event.
Dela Cruz also expressed his appreciation to Norman Tenorio for allowing their vessel, Super Emerald, to sail to Tinian and bring more visitors, particularly bikers from Saipan.