ROTA—Two months has passed since the arrival of M/V Luta in the CNMI after much delay, and it still has yet to commence providing greatly needed and promised services in shipping goods and commuting passengers for Rota and the rest of the CNMI.
Instead of being open to provide services to the general public, M/V Luta is being chartered by private individuals.
Currently, it is being chartered by businessman Robert Toelkes, said to be a consultant for Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog who was among the main parties involved in bringing M/V Luta to the CNMI.
The vessel is shipping equipment to Tinian where Toelkes was said to have won a contract to clear up an investor’s property on Tinian.
M/V Luta’s agent is Viola Hocog-Atalig, daughter of Lt. Gov. Hocog, of the Rota Terminal & Transfer Co., Inc. Lt. Gov. Hocog is part owner of RT&T and has previously served as its president.
According to Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig, they are concerned that M/V Luta hasn’t started yet but they are hopeful that the services will start soon.
“As I understand, they are working on the company that is supposed to take care of the inbound-outbound of goods,” Atalig said.
“Of course we have to be concerned. But I hope for and we look forward to it to start regularly. The fact that it is within the Marianas already, we look forward to it operating,” he added.
Atalig said they are in communication with Luta Mermaid LLC regarding the situation of the vessel.
With the M/V Luta still not offering services to the people of Rota, they are still dependent on the barge of Saipan Shipping that comes to Rota every other month or sometimes three months, according to Atalig.
The M/V Luta was supposed to reduce the waiting time for shipments to come in since the barge is having a hard time to come in to the dock.
He added that some merchants are hiring private boats to ship goods while some are air flown.
Asked if the people have been patient with regards to M/V Luta, Atalig said, “I think the fact that it’s here in the Marianas, they are hopeful that it’s going to start soon.”
Just last week, a taxpayer’s lawsuit was filed against Hocog and Department of Finance Secretary Larissa C. Larson over the alleged adoption of a Rota Legislative Delegation resolution without public notice that purportedly authorized payment of $400,000 to a private company owned by relatives of Hocog.
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 on Rota, and to provide for the personnel and operational costs of the Office of the Mayor of Rota.”
Atalig said he has not been briefed regarding the lawsuit, but he is “curious to know what’s going on” and will be discussing it with Hocog.