Commonwealth Ports Authority Executive Director Carlos H. Salas has asked the Board of Public Lands to transfer to CPA some 39 acres of land at Tanapag Harbor for the development of Saipan Harbor.
With the completion of the $42 million Port of Saipan expansion project, the CNMI is now equipped to market the Port of Saipan as a cargo transshipment port in the region, Salas said in a letter addressed to Manuel P. Villagomez, board chairman of BPL.
Three years ago, the United States released to the Commonwealth the leasehold interest in 39 acres of the 44-acre Covenant leaseback land at Tanapag Harbor.
Five acres were retained for the U.S. Army Reserve Center. Under the Covenant’s Technical Agreement Regarding Use of Land to be Leased by the United States, the 44-acre leaseback area will be earmarked for “harbor-related” purposes.
As a result of the seaport expansion project, the Commonwealth now has 2,600 linear feet of berthing space capable of accommodating three to four large cargo or cruise vessels at a time.
The new port is also equipped to carry out a large-scale stevedoring and terminal facility operation. It has a large container yard area for the storage of containerized cargoes, vehicles, and other commodities shipped to the Commonwealth, and equipped with dockside lighting for night time terminal operations.
According to Salas, CPA has to continue planning for the future in terms of port improvement and expansion of its port facility to accommodate the Commonwealth’s economic growth and projected increase in the volume of cargo coming onto the island.
“The economic boom that the Commonwealth experienced in the 1980s and 1990s followed by the Asian economic crisis that hit us in 1997 and is still continuing, has taught us that we need to plan for the future to diversify our economy. We can no longer take our economic prosperity for granted,” said Salas.
While the new Port of Saipan is much larger that the old Charlie Dock premises that the CNMI has been using for over four decades, the port’s actual land area is still quite small compared to Guam, he added.
Salas noted that the size of the land base is very important for Saipan to be competitive to accommodate a larger volume of cargo and materials destined for the land to support port activities for future growth.
In seeking the transfer of the property under CPA, Salas said it will help in maintaining a cohesive, orderly growth and planning for the port and its future expansion.
“Because CPA, by law, has the jurisdiction and responsibility to operate and manage the ports of the Commonwealth, we believe that it is the appropriate agency to conduct and carry out all port-related activities and functions,” he added.
The CPA chief also sought the assistance of Rep. Manuel A. Tenorio, chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources, for the immediate transfer of the property to the ports authority.