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Port leadership waits on MARAD

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Tired of waiting for the start of the massive modernization plan that was developed five years ago, the Port Authority of Guam's management and board are waiting to hear back from the U.S. Maritime Administration on their plans to make improvements to get the Port moving full steam ahead.

The Port's modernization effort was the focus of today's Rotary Club of Northern Guam meeting. The agency is ready to start making improvements to its facility - the question is whether the federal government will help pay for the Port's proposed band-aid solution.

"There is really more than an urgent and critical need to start moving forward in getting that port modernized and getting repairs done," noted PAG chairman Dan Tydingco, and according to management, the board of directors, the Port Users Group, the governor and the Legislature, that critical need can no longer wait for additional studies to be conducted by MARAD, which is on its third study on the deterioration of the wharf.

Tydingco continued, "In many instances, we've just run into stone walls. So we've indicated that we can no longer bog down here. We don't have the luxury of time."

During meetings in the nation's capitol a week ago, government officials pitched their proposal, asking MARAD to approve the agency's use of $15 million of the $50 million from the Department of Defense. MARAD has previously said it wants all of that money to be used to replace the wharf, which could cost as much as $200 million. "We're not hindering them from proceeding down that line. We welcome that however we've indicated to them that there are only certain bulks of money that we have available and one is inclusive of that $50 million, which DOD granted to the community of Guam for the Port Modernization Plan," he explained.

Should MARAD come back and deny the request, Tydingco says the Port is ready to obtain a $15 million loan for a service life extension of the wharf that would keep it running for another decade. "Our present facility down there, particularly the insurability the safety of the personnel, the requirements of the users, and also an ability to get needed equipment down there is at risk right now," he said.

That risk is coupled with growing pressure from the port's insurers who have warned that the current waterfront conditions could result in the agency losing insurability all together or increased premiums if there is no effort to mitigate the problems. "We've held off on doing generic repairs and refurbished up there and it's presently compromising could potentially the safety of the personnel up there," said the chairman.

Port officials have also asked that in addition to the $15 million for the service life extension of the wharf that they be allowed to begin the upland improvements that are critical to port operations, as well. Officials are hoping to hear back from MARAD in the next week or two.

In the meantime, the Committee on Transportation will conduct a follow-up informational briefing on Tuesday night at 6:30 at the Legislative Public Hearing Room.

 

 

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