Following a recent meeting between the Office of the Governor and the U.S. Coast Guard, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres coordinated with the Civil Military Liaison Office and the Department of Lands and Natural Resources to address local fishermen concerns regarding the channel buoys and light beacons in the Saipan lagoon.
“Increasing concerns from commercial, recreational, and local fisherman were brought up to the Governor’s Office regarding buoys, lights, and navigational aids. Members of the governor’s staff and DLNR were tasked to inspect conditions of these buoys,” said CMLO executive director Stanley T. Iakopo.
After consultations with local mariners and joint inspection efforts conducted by DLNR and the Office of the Governor, a number of issues regarding buoys and navigational aids were identified. A light was inoperable on a shipping channel guide buoy while overgrown vegetation obstructed the beacon light on Mañagaha Island. Also, mariners stated that the complete lack of lighting on many of the ship channel buoys made the channel hazardous to transit at night.
“Upon completion of its inspection and upon further consultation with Gov. Torres, it was determined that the proper course of action was to bring the issues to the attention of the Coast Guard. It is the responsibility of the USCG to maintain the ship channel buoys and navigational aids (such the beacon on Mañagaha island) and to review and upgrade those navigational aids where necessary,” Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Anthony T. Benavente said.
Accordingly, staff from the Office of the Governor met with the local district commander, Capt. Christopher M. Chase, in Guam.
Chase was receptive to the concerns of the local mariners and the issue surrounding navigation safety in the channel. The meeting ended with the Chase promising to look into the CNMI’s concerns and correct them as necessary.
“Maintaining the CNMI’s federal aids to navigation is a primary mission entrusted to the Coast Guard. Together with our partners, we are committed to ensuring the maritime sector remains secure and the flow of vital commerce to the islands continues safely,” Chase said.
Recently, Chase visited Saipan and met with Torres, during which Chase stated that, based on the concerns brought to him, the USCG took action; the lights on the buoys were brought back to operating order and the vegetation on Mañagaha Island was cleared so that the beacon could once again be clearly spotted.
Further, he stated that it was the intent of the USCG to install lights on a number of the channel buoys that are currently bare. It is expected that this upgrade of navigation will occur in the near future.
Torres noted that the concerns brought by the community were the driving force behind these negotiations with the Coast Guard.
“I want to thank DLNR and the Coast Guard for agreeing to work together on this issue affecting our…fishermen. We are very pleased with the results of the discussions as real action has been done to address these concerns. The collaboration between our partners in the Coast Guard and the military to address our islands’ concerns has been productive, and we look forward to discussions in the future for the benefit of our community.” (PR)