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M/V Luta to sail for Rota this week

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M/V Luta, a retrofitted passenger and cargo vessel, will sail from its current port in Louisiana to Rota on Wednesday after its “christening” today.

Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig disclosed that the Japanese-owned vessel will take its maiden voyage and will reach the CNMI “in about 30 days.”

Atalig also confirmed that Lt. Ralph DLG. Torres and Senate President Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) earlier flew to the U.S. mainland to attend the vessel’s christening.

The christening will be held today, and the ship will sail the day after, Atalig said.

A new ship is traditionally christened by breaking a bottle of champagne on the ship’s hull. It is often conducted to ensure its safe travel and for good luck.

M/V Luta will have an impact on Rota, as it is expected to help the island’s tourism and business sectors.

According to Atalig, one of the immediate impact will be the lowering of ferry fares and transport costs of goods.

M/V Luta can carry both passengers and cargo.

Atalig, however, said he is not sure how low the ferry fares will go, and this will be up to the operators of M/V Luta.

In January, Hocog hosted a meeting with the owners of the vessel, the U.S. Coast Guard, and officials of Rota to discuss the impending arrival of the vessel.

In September 2014, Japanese businessman Takahisa Yamamoto invested about $1.6 million in the retrofitted cargo and passenger ship that will bring passengers, agricultural goods, and other consumer items to and from Rota, Saipan, Tinian, the Northern Islands, and Guam.

Yamamoto, from Osaka, Japan, owns Luta Mermaid LLC, the main business of which is to operate M/V Luta.

“Luta” is other name for “Rota,” where the cargo ship will be home-ported.

The 150-foot-long, 500-ton cargo ship was in Louisiana to obtain a certificate of inspection from the U.S. Coast Guard. The ship can accommodate 18 passengers and can carry up to 28 20-foot containers.

Hocog, who has helped Yamamoto realize his plan to further develop Rota, said having a cargo ship home-ported on Rota will reduce freight costs and lower the price of commodities.

The senator said this cargo ship will also be the “answer” to Rota’s longstanding problem of food and other commodities shortage every time barges cannot go into the port because of rough seas.

Joel D. Pinaroc | Reporter
Joel Pinaroc worked for a number of newspapers in the Philippines before joining the editorial team of Saipan Tribune. His published articles include stories on information technology, travel and lifestyle, and motoring, among others. Contact him at joel_pinaroc@saipantribune.com.

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