‘One IPI crane could collapse’


With no ongoing construction at the Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s resort/casino project, the Commonwealth Casino Commission is concerned about the imminent danger the three tower cranes at the site pose to business establishments and people in western Garapan, especially during this typhoon season.

That fear was further heightened when IPI construction site manager Jesse Aquiningoc told CCC board members during the board’s meeting last Thursday that he believes that if not repaired immediately, Tower Crane No. 6 that is facing the beach may start to collapse in three months.

CCC board chair Edward C. DeLeon Guerrero asked IPI officials present at the meeting to immediately notify their legal counsel, Michael Dotts, about the situation so the lawyer can seek permission from the U.S. District Court for the NMI to let IPI repair that specific crane.

“I take this very, very seriously. Lives of people are involved,” DeLeon Guerrero said.

He said he saw a video where a whole building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed last month and “we don’t want to see something like that” here.

He urged IPI chief engineer Eric Poon to follow it up with Dotts.

Poon said they are on that matter since they inspected Tower Crane No. 6. “So we are coming very close to getting [that] started,” Poon said.

DeLeon Guerrero said both Poon and Aquiningoc have the responsibility to alert IPI’s management that this is an issue that’s not negotiable.

Poon said they are not planning to remove Tower Crane No. 6 but only the arms, and the jib-boom that is holding the counterweight. Eventually, when they resume construction work, they are going to re-inspect all the tower cranes including Tower Crane No. 1, Poon said.

Aquiningoc said there is nothing wrong with crane No. 6’s mass and turntable, as they are still in good shape.

Poon said they do have spare parts from Tower Crane No. 4 that they already took down.

DeLeon Guerrero urged Poon to have Dotts seek the federal court’s approval to allow IPI’s staff to go down and remove the arms on crane No. 6, and also take a look at crane Nos. 5 and 1.

At the start of the CCC board meeting, CCC vice chair Rafael S. Demapan and commissioner Ramon M. Dela Cruz inquired about safety issues with IPI’s cranes.

Dela Cruz said IPI still has responsibility to ensure that the cranes are safe for the neighboring establishments. Dela Cruz said the IPI management should be informed that there is imminent danger in the area if they don’t secure those cranes.

The commissioner noted that because of the proximity of the facility to the beach, the saltwater will rapidly erode those cranes.

Dela Cruz asked IPI to let the federal court know of the situation so it can at least issue a partial order so IPI can check the cranes and retrofit them to make them safe to neighboring businesses.

Right now, the site has three standing tower cranes: Tower Crane No. 5 facing Joeten, Tower Crane No. 6 facing the beach, and Tower Crane No. 1, which is inside the construction site.

Poon said they recently worked on Crane No. 5 and did some maintenance work on it. “And it’s running healthy,” he said.

As for Tower Crane No. 6, Poon said they have not operated that since 2019. He said they recently inspected that tower crane and they discovered some rusted components that they need to take care of for safety reasons.

Poon said they did that visual inspection last May and they immediately made some maintenance work on that tower crane. “It poses no risk of safety hazard at this moment,” said Poon, but he agreed with the board that it needs immediate repair.

With respect to Crane No. 5 which is facing Joeten, Poon and Aquiningoc said the last time it was operated was last December and January, when they took down Tower Crane No. 4.

Aquiningoc said Crane No. 5 is fairly new as they installed new components before they took down Crane No. 4.

As for Tower Crane No. 1, which is inside the construction site, Aquiningoc said he has not been there in maybe seven months so he is sure it’s already rusty.

Aquiningco said his last assessment of Crane No. 6 was in May 2021 and that he already told Poon that there’s a lot of rusty components already.

Poon said the met with the Department of Public Works last July and submitted their observation report regarding Tower Crane No. 6. Poon said they recommend to DPW that IPI be allowed to take down Crane No. 6’s jib-boom and arms for safety.

Poon said they have not notified Dotts about the observation report as they want to settle the issue with DPW and have clear direction from DPW on the procedure and process on how to get the crane down safely. Poon said they want to use the same company that took down Crane No. 4.

CCC Division of Enforcement and Investigations manager Vicente B. Babauta said that he, CCC executive director Andrew Yeom, Poon, and a DPW representative met last July 2, in which CCC did raise the issue and concerns about the cranes.

Babauta said that, although they are not crane experts, based on at least their inspection, they know when the crane needs maintenance as it’s rusty and overgrown with vegetation.

Babauta asked Poon if Crane No. 6 is safe to be standing there. Poon replied, “For now.”

Babauta asked if there has been any incident where the parts of Crane No. 6 have fallen. Aquiningoc admitted that the crane’s arm rails recently fell.

“It fell out because now we know that it needs attention and thankfully nobody got hurt,” Babauta pointed out.

Babauta said DPW stated that it has no role in dismantling the cranes. Babauta said DPW is only into the building code, but what they (DPW) need from IPI is the listing of the people that need to work there in the dismantling of the crane.

“As long as that crane is standing it still poses a hazard to the surrounding. …Not only is the crane high, but those arms are 40 to 60 meters [long] and can pretty much reach anywhere in Garapan if the unit collapses,” he said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.