ACG, shipping firm ink MOU for ferries between Saipan, Tinian


Alter City Group, an investor that plans to build a casino resort on Tinian, signed yesterday a memorandum of understanding with the Chu Kong Passenger Transport Company Ltd. to develop a ferry system between Saipan and Tinian.

Acting governor Ralph Torres signed the agreement as a witness after a presentation at the Office of the Governor’s conference room on Capital Hill yesterday.

Peng Dong, director and general manager of Chu Kong, said the project is at “its initial stage.”

Speaking through a translator, Dong said they recently visited Saipan and Tinian to conduct a site investigation—to collect information needed to develop in depth plans that they and Alter City Group will explore.

“We are working very closely with the Alter City Group. We hope we can provide the service as soon as possible,” Dong said.

When asked, Dong said that based on their initial viewing, they plan to bring “at least two vessels” as part of ferry services. Dong explained that one vessel would be a backup if the other is down.

“…Two is the minimum,” Dong said.

Translating for Dong during their meeting, Alter City Group managing director Ken Lin told Torres that the shipping company has over 50 vessels in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau, and conducts over 300 trips every day. They serve more than 10 million passengers a year, he said.

“Safety is most important for them,” Lin added, noting that they abide by the International Safety Management Code.

The Chu Kong Passenger Transport Co., Ltd. is owned by Hong Kong Chu Kong Shipping Enterprise (Holdings) Ltd. They operated for over 20 years in Hong Kong starting in 1985 and growing to provide service for more than 10 inland river ports plying in cities in China.

“After the visit in both Saipan and Tinian…I found that it was a good spot for a tourist industry,” Dong told reporters after the meeting. “However, because now there is a lack of flights, [the industry is] not really intense right now. But there is a good future because more and more Chinese are coming here. …They don’t need a visa to come here.

“I believe that if there can be an advancement in the hotel facilities, transportation arrangements, like water transport, airlines—if all these parts can be advanced then there will be a definite bright future for the area,” Dong said.

Marianas shipping hub

Edvon Sze, ACG chief executive officer, said that Chu Kong Shipping is also interested in setting up a shipyard in the CNMI as a repair headquarters for vessels between Guam, Palau, Yap.

“This is going to be a maintenance hub for them to take care of the regional islands in the Pacific Ocean area,” Sze said.

He said the vessels that Chu Kong Shipping would be using to service the Saipan-Tinian route would be bigger and faster than previous ferries.

Sze said they aim to keep the fares low for locals and include ferry services where cars or trucks could “drive in” to provide convenient commute for locals traveling between the two islands.

Exploring options

Lin, the managing director for Alter City Group, told Saipan Tribune that they are partnering with the vessel company as they have a project on Tinian.

“We need actually to bring customers between the two islands,” Lin said. “We are looking at different options. As you see before, with Aerobus [a planned interisland “air bridge”] and now the ferry. We have also been talking to the airline carriers as well. We really want to find a way to actually link the islands.”

For his part, Torres said he was there yesterday to witness the joint venture between the two investors, “knowing the issue of the transportation” between Saipan and Tinian.

“And now having the opportunity to have a new vessel again come back to the CNMI is a great opportunity and that will give the people of Tinian and Saipan and our tourist industry the opportunity to visit both islands. With this, I also see the opportunity to transport produce and eventually livestock,” the acting governor told reporters.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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