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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tinian firm’s bid for exclusive right to harbor face opposition

An application to allow a Tinian company to handle all seaport activities and operation on the island will most likely be rejected following strong opposition voiced by different sectors.

Tinian Marine Stevedore Inc. is reportedly applying with the Commonwealth Ports Authority to gain exclusive rights to the entire seaport on Tinian for its business expansion. However, this early, the proposal is meeting strong opposition from most of the CPA board and the Tinian Legislative Delegation.

CPA executive director MaryAnn Lizama disclosed during Friday’s meeting that the delegation sent a letter urging the ports authority to reject the proposed exclusive rights on the Tinian seaport property as this will bar new businesses from investing in the development of the seaport. The letter to CPA was reportedly sent by the delegation secretary Sen. Joaquin Borja, who stated that the issue will greatly impact the expansion and growth of the Tinian economy. The delegation also sought a meeting with the CPA board to further discuss the issue.

The board did not decide on the matter pending further clarifications.

Seaports facilities committee chair Benigno Sablan said that if exclusive rights are accorded to Tinian Stevedore Inc., this would affect the entry of not only small businesses but also a multimillion dollar project now being proposed in the vicinity of the Tinian seaport property.

He was referring to a project proposal from Bridge Investment Group LLC, which plans to build a 300-room hotel called the Titanic Hotel on Tinian’s waterfront. The project was presented to the CPA board by Tinian Chamber of Commerce President Philip Mendiola Long in October.

Sablan said Mendiola-Long’s group is ready to sign a lease agreement and pay the initial $80,000 fee required to begin the process.

According to CPA executive director MaryAnn Lizama, CPA is now working on a “conditional lease” permit for Bridge Capital. Once all requirements are satisfied, an actual lease agreement will be issued.

She also pointed out that once exclusive right is granted to Tinian Marine Stevedore Inc., this may potentially result in higher costs for seaport activities, affecting small businesses. “They will face costs that we didn’t have before,” she said.

Michael San Nicolas, the board member representing Tinian, said he supports whatever decision is made on the Tinian port as long as it will help CPA generate income from its idle seaport properties on the island.

CPA board acting chair Thomas Kiyu Villagomez told Saipan Tribune that, once a conditional lease is issued, the board will make sure that there will be a timeframe as to when Bridge Capital is required to start the project. Failure to see a solid effort from the investor will mean canceling the lease agreement, he added.

As for Tinian Stevedore Inc.’s proposal to gain exclusive rights to the Tinian seaport property, he said: “It looks like they are interested in the whole property and operation of the harbor…and I don’t think we can allow that. If it’s only the pier side [for example], it’s something that can be considered but not for the entire seaport area.”

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