Port Authority representatives took the hot seat before lawmakers today as discussion on Bill 178 began. The Port's long-term master plan details the upgrades needed for the port's expansion in light of the impending military buildup.
Lawmakers wanted answers during today's review of the Port Authority's master plan. Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz demanded clarity on the port's figures about cargo shipments saying they appeared inconsistent, "I'm just saying use some numbers and I'll be real frank, quit lying to us!" he also later noted, "Never mind, I just want to know how many containers, you guys are blowing smoke up our...by telling us you've got 129,000 containers a year."
Port representatives defended the master plan, saying its passage is critical. Agency general manager Glenn Leon Guerrero noted, "We know we are expecting the anticipation of more cargo with the military buildup," with board chairman Monte Mesa chiming in with, "It is very critical to get this master plan approved."
Lawmakers took issue with the licensing agreement the port entered into with Matson and Horizon over the shippers' purchase of three used cranes, totaling $18 million. Specifically, senators are upset over the additional $125 charge being billed to customers. "It's costing somebody $125 a container, which is equivalent to a penny per can of spam, right?" asked Cruz.
Mesa replied with, "Matson and Horizon charges their customers and this is where the charges go."
And senators have a critical role in this. The Legislature has $100 million to consider and the Port cannot submit its application for federal funding without this approval.
Senator Tom Ada said, "The carriers did invest in those cranes and they've got to recoup that investment and pay for the monthly maintenance cost, so certainly the $125 will go towards those expenses. Whether that's excessive is another matter."
To address the cost of business, Mesa told KUAM News that he has had conversations with the retail and wholesale committee members at the Chamber of Commerce and they are working on a strategy moving forward. He said, "There is a solution and it is going to take all of us to work together and minimize the impact to the community. That's the solution."
But the Vice-speaker insists the details in the master plan did not provide him with enough information. As the debate continues as the tide and times are changing, it's evident that action must be taken on the master plan - but what that will be remains to be seen as session resumes at 9am Thursday.