The owner of M/V Luta is looking at waiving the transport fees of agricultural produce in the CNMI. This is apparently one of the concessions the privately-owned vessel is willing to give, after getting a significant funding support for its fuel and other costs.
Senate President Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) confirmed that $400,000 was approved for use by M/V Luta, a retrofitted cargo and passenger vessel owned by Japanese company, Luta Mermaid LLC.
Hocog said the owner of M/V Luta is also proposing to waive the fees for all farm produce transported between Guam and the CNMI.
Hocog said the fund will be mostly used for the fuel costs for M/V Luta as it sails from the U.S. mainland to the CNMI.
He clarified that the funds will be good for up to seven months of the vessel’s operations.
With the subsidy, M/V Luta can, in return, provide discounts particularly on cargo fees transported between Guam, Rota, Saipan, and Tinian, Hocog said.
“Yes, it is a private company, but it will help the economy, especially on the cargo fees,” Hocog said.
He said this could also entice investors’ confidence on the CNMI if they plan to bring and ship out goods.
Rota Legislative Delegation Resolution 19-03 was approved “to authorize the Department of Finance to pay for fuel, lubrication, and other costs necessary for the maiden voyage of the vessel from Louisiana to its new home port in Rota, and to provide for the personnel and operational costs of the Office of the Mayor of Rota.”
The Rota Legislative Delegation adopted the resolution on March 20.
The vessel set sail from Louisiana on April 15, and is expected to the reach the CNMI in about 36 days.
Asked for a comment on the resolution, House minority leader Rep. Ramon A. Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan) said the bill should be an appropriation bill and not a resolution, because the Finance Department can only release funding through appropriations.
This is not necessarily illegal, but it should have been filed as an appropriations bill, and not a resolution, Tebuteb said.
He added that the fund is part of the fund allocation to the First Senatorial District, coming from the casino license fees.
Lt. Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres, meanwhile, said the government plans to ask the owner of M/V Luta to ship some equipment that the Office of the Governor can use.
Torres said a letter of request was sent, and that heavy equipment are being eyed to be transported to the CNMI.
He added that the $400,000 is Rota’s “own funding.”