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Friday, April 25, 2014

COTA: Public-private partnership key to CNMI-Guam ferry service

While fully supporting Guam Sen. Tina Rose Muna Barnes’ resolution to create a ferry service between Guam and the CNMI, the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority said that venture would need a strong partnership between the public and private sectors in order to succeed.

In his written testimony in yesterday’s public hearing at the Guam Legislature, special assistant for public transportation Thomas J. Camacho said the CNMI supports the initial financing plan for a feasibility study of the Rota-Guam Ferry Boat System.

“Unlike previous privately operated passenger-only ferry service between Tinian and Saipan, it’s essential for a study to include a Financial Service Plan that recommends financing and one that provides optional financing of the management and operations of such a system; however, we recommend public-private partnership where the government (GRTA and COTA) own 51 percent including the vehicles and regulate the operation while 49 percent is privately operated and maintenance under a service contract agreement,” he said.

GRTA stands for Guam Regional Transit Authority.

Camacho, who testified in behalf of Gov. Eloy S. Inos, added that public-private partnerships will be necessary and should be encouraged to sustain an auto/passenger ferry service in the CNMI and the region.

“There must be a convergence between private passenger boat operators who provide sterling customer service and the experience and skill of marine labor,” he said.

The COTA chief said that ferry service provides an alternative to air travel, as inter-island commuter service for work, allows delivery service via mini delivery trucks and vans, is a tourist attraction, and plays an important role in emergency preparedness.”

Camacho said other benefits of a public transit system is that it enhances personal opportunities such as the mobility and freedom for people from every walks of life, creates jobs and provides access to job opportunities.

“Public transportation provides economic opportunities, for example, for every dollar communities invest in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns. Money invested in public transportation also supports and creates hundreds to thousands of job, transit capital investment increases business sales, and transit operating investments yield increased business sales.”

Camacho said there’s no doubt that the CNMI-Guam ferry system is and will remain an important part of the region’s transportation systems.

“Most especially with our current situation on Rota, water travel will be and is a necessity for residents of the islands of Guam and the CNMI. The reality is, there’s much work and many challenges lie ahead; but we also believe that collaborating as one Marianas, we can overcome, succeed, and make this plan a reality, a system that will be designed to serve and connect our two islands as one Marianas, a model for the Pacific Island nation.”

Barnes’ Resolution 279-32 calls for the Guam Legislature to support the promotion of an affordable alternative regional transportation between Guam and the CNMI by means of a ferry service or other similar passenger and cargo service.

Aside from Camacho, other CNMI officials that attended yesterday’s public hearing at the Guam Legislature were Rota Mayor Melchor Mendiola and Rota resident Martin Mendiola.

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