Bridge Investment Group chief executive officer Philip Mendiola-Long said their company is looking at reviving the ferry service to and from Saipan—a move that could bring back inter-island commerce between the two islands and breathe life to Tinian’s struggling economy.
The ferry would again connect both islands with commuters having an alternative means of transportation. Right now, anyone going to Tinian has to use STAR Marianas airplanes for their daily commute and transport of goods between Saipan and Tinian.
Mendiola-Long, who topped the race for the Tinian and Aguiguan Municipal Council last week, said that reviving the ferry service is one of BIG’s plans to boost the island’s economic activity and their commitment in helping the community.
“We are investing in Tinian and in the community. One of our projects is the [roll-on/roll-off] ferry and included in that is the ferry terminal,” Mendiola-Long told Saipan Tribune.
He said they plan to begin construction of the ferry terminal either next month or in early January so it would be operational by March or April next year.
“We already bought a 50-meter ferry. It is bigger so it would not…rock if you take the ferry,” added Mendiola-Long.
The previous ferry for both islands was a smaller craft that rocked when hit by waves while traveling the Saipan Strait. Passengers who are not used to sea travel get seasick or throw up despite the less than 30-minute travel time.
Mendiola-Long said the ferry could also transport vehicles “It can fit eight trucks or 20-plus cars.”
He said the ferry service would also increase tourism on Tinian and tour agents could start offering Saipan-Tinian tour packages. “Tourism will also benefit from the ferry aside from an increase in inter-island commerce.”
“If you’re a tourist and want to visit Tinian, you could now drive there. Hop in your car, drive to the ferry terminal on Saipan, load it up, and then you can drive around Tinian. You can be back on Saipan by late afternoon,” said Mendiola-Long. “You visit two islands for the price of one.”
Ferry service to Tinian is usually offered during the three-day Hot Pepper Festival, where Saipan residents join in the festivities. The ferry service to Tinian was halted in 2010 and in 2014 the Department of Public Works decided to call off a feasibility plan of reviving it.