No docking fee, no passenger fee, no loading of passenger
Beginning today, the Department of Lands and Natural Resources will be collecting a $3 per passenger loading fee at the Smiling Cove Marina.
This comes after the 10-day grace period for the collection of the fee expired. It was the DLNR’s Division of Fish and Wildlife that set the fee.
Prior to the implementation of the fee, DFW met with marina stakeholders to explain the new system.
The money collected through the passenger fee will be used for the maintenance and operation of the transient dock within the Smiling Cove Marina, which will be used to load and unload passengers, in lieu of the Outer Cove Marina, which has been closed for being unsafe for public use.
The new passenger loading scheme would also feature wristbands that boat operators would give to each passenger, as a way to monitor the number of passengers being loaded using the dock.
“[Today], when they [boat operators] have customers, they just put that [wristband] within their customers’ wrists,” DFW director Manny M. Pangelinan explained. “It is like a FastPass in amusement parks. If you have a FastPass, you can go first.”
Passengers with wristbands would then be able to go to the loading gate to get boarded. Passengers without wristbands would have to wait.
Boats that are ready, and have registered and paid the fees to participate in the loading and offloading at the transient dock, will then be called to pick up the passengers, based on capacity.
As of 1pm yesterday, Pangelinan identified five companies that have already paid the fees: Big Boyz Marine Sports Inc., BSEA, Inc., Saipan Sun Co., Tropical Leisure Sports, and JM Co. Ltd. He added that other companies have also been slowly coming in.
Pangelinan expects that not all boat operators would comply with the new regulation.
“I really do expect it, I really expect that something’s [going to] go wrong,” Pangelinan said. “If something goes wrong [today], I’m going to look at it, assess it, and find the solution.”
DFW expects to generate data on the number of passengers under the new scheme.
“In a quarter, [we would be able to have data on] how much we collected in October, how much we collected in November, and how much we collected in December,” Pangelinan said, adding that the DFW by then would be able to provide the public a rundown of all its expenses in the operation of the transient dock.
“We need to make things transparent so that people will be confident that we are making money to operate the dock for the commercial boaters, and in turn, it helps the tourist industry.” Pangelinan said.
Fish and Wildlife will also be maintaining a ledger and will be holding a quarterly meeting, which the public can attend, as part of its commitment to the Open Government Act.