A Commonwealth Ports Authority board member finds it troubling to see zero business activities at the Echo Dock in Lower Base. To remedy this, board member Pete Reyes instructed CPA staff last Friday to dig into its archives to find evidence that Duty Free Shoppers had given up its interest in the property as a concessionaire so that CPA can go in and develop it to attract businesses to the area.
At the Committee on Seaport Facilities meeting last Friday, Reyes, who chairs the committee, said that even one document or communication showing DFS’ lack of interest in the property would be enough for CPA to legally allow work on the Echo Dock.
“We have a piece of prime property that’s sitting there and doing nothing. And it is troubling for me to continue driving past that area and see that no activities are happening,” he said.
Saipan Tribune was still awaiting comments from DFS as of press time yesterday.
The committee’s discussion last Friday homed in on the Echo Dock after CPA received letters from various companies expressing an interest in leasing the property.
CPA’s in-house legal counsel, Joseph Hallahan, pointed out, though, that it would be prudent to first meet with DFS about this possible concession right at Saipan seaport, since DFS holds the master concession and all other agreements that are within the master concession.
If it is determined that DFS has exclusive concession rights at Echo Dock, a request-for-proposal cannot be awarded until DFS no longer retains those concession rights, Hallahan said.
One option would be to proceed with an RFP that includes concession operations, he said. CPA management should be directed to determine the scope of concession and evaluation plan, so proposals that include concession operations may be submitted.
Another option is to proceed with the RFP and restrict proposals to non-concession operations.
In an interview later, Reyes said an investor that is interested in the Echo Dock property has already submitted a “very attractive” proposal.
Reyes said CPA, however, would need to do an RFP and they need to determine whether they have the ability to do that because of DFS’ possible rights under the concession agreement.
Reyes said DFS’ concession has already expired but CPA has not selected a new concessionaire yet.
Reyes said the conditions of the agreement under that concession allows DFS to have full control of beverages, sales of food and beverage, advertisement and so forth.
“But it appears that, at least from legal standpoint, we cannot [issue] an RFP…until we RFP out the airport concession because that was re-bundled and Duty Free continues to have that control,” he said.
Reyes said the master concession agreement with DFS is not only with the Saipan airport and seaport, but also seaports and airports on Tinian and Rota.
Reyes said that, according to some CPA board members, DFS has indicated its disinterest in both Rota and Tinian airports and seaports.
He said some members stated that DFS also declined its interest in the Saipan seaport.
“We are hoping that that could be clarified,” Reyes said.
An issue raised at the meeting was the fisherman’s restaurant that Mariano Falig used to operate at the East Dock. “Did we get a waiver from DFS to allow him open up a restaurant?” Reyes asked CPA staff. “If there was no complication on the award to build a fisherman’s restaurant there, why it is now an issue?”
A CPA staff said they don’t recall getting a waiver.
Reyes suggested to CPA management to research the application that Falig submitted to CPA and how that transformed into granting a lease agreement.
CPA board vice chair Roman Tudela said it bothers him every time he hears about the need for CPA to get Duty Free’s consent.
“If you look at the record, we should be able to find some indication that, at the onset of this master concession, DFS indicated that they have no interest [with] the seaport. They have no interest establishing a concession [on] Tinian and Rota, as well as the commuter [terminal],” Tudela said.
Tudela said there should be something in the CPA file that they can find “to that effect.”
Tudela said they should look back at CPA’s record as there must be a communication there indicating that they have no interest in the port and they don’t want to establish any concession there.
Reyes said the troubling thing is that Duty Free did not step in to claim its rights when Falig was running a restaurant at the seaport.
“So, it raises an issue in my mind that, perhaps, they understand that they are not interested in those areas. I still ask that we go back to our archives and check,” Reyes said.