14 July 2012

Ship recycling company reaffirms interest in Tinian harbor:

PROPONENTS of a ship recycling facility are back, reaffirming their commitment to establishing the facility in Tinian Harbor.

Variety learned that First International Corp., or “FIC,” owner Paul Slater and consultant U.S. Navy Retired Rear Admiral Christopher Weaver have returned to meet with Tinian Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz, the Tinian Joint Legislative Delegation, the Commonwealth Ports Authority board and Gov. Benigno R. Fitial to discuss the prospect of having a ship recycling facility on Tinian.
Dela Cruz clarified that the proposed operation is neither a repair facility nor a shipyard.

“It’s a recycling project that will turn into scrap metals decommissioned U.S. naval vessels, and sell these in the open market,” he said.

He added that these vessels, which are “scrubbed” to Environmental Protection Agency standards, can be found in San Francisco Bay, waiting to be towed.

According to First International Corp., they intend to tow the vessels to Tinian Harbor where they will be tied alongside the repaired finger piers, Variety was told.

Then, the ships will be cut into small pieces which will be stuffed into containers for shipment to buyers.

Based on FIC’s plan, certified personnel will oversee the collection of any hazardous materials that are discovered within the vessels.

FIC also assures that once packed into special hazmat containers, the materials will be shipped to certified U.S. mainland hazmat storage facilities.

The project, Variety was told, will not only create jobs but will spur economic activity.

According to Tinian Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz, “The ship recycling business will employ 100 people initially, 300 when fully operational.  Specialists will train local hires in every aspect of the business.”

For the mayor, he sees the project as benefiting not only Tinian but the entire CNMI.

“First, it will provide jobs.  Clearly, there will not be enough people on Tinian to fill all those positions.  So, people from Saipan, Rota and Guam will have a new opportunity for meaningful private sector employment,” he said.

He added, “Money made from the foreign buyers will pay the salaries, housing rentals and food for the employees, thus providing a new infusion of foreign cash within the CNMI economy.”

He said the operating company will also pay rental fees for the use of CPA lands on Tinian, as well as excise taxes for each container shipped off island, and Business Gross Receipts taxes.

The mayor says that in addition to the revenues which the project is intended to generate, the recycling facility’s vigorous operations will lead to more sources of funding for the completion of repairs to the breakwater.

In an earlier statement to Variety, Dela Cruz expressed his elation over the prospect of economic developments that Tinian has long been waiting for, and said that a prudent investment in the harbor could create more economic opportunities.

Dela Cruz understands that the project requires a lot of money to rebuild the harbor in order to make it workable for the company.

Said the mayor, “Don’t you think it is the opportune time to actually do something, spend money to make money?” he said.

With the ship recycling facility operating, he said this will make Tinian Harbor fully functional and improve the chances of the Department of Defense taking full advantage of their leased lands on Tinian, particularly for the construction of the Air Force Divert Base.

Slater has been visiting the CNMI over the last year and half, looking into the best location for the proposed recycling facility.

Earlier, it was determined that Apra Harbor on Guam was too crowded with further developments expected with the military buildup there.

In meetings with the CPA, the conclusion was reached that Tinian Harbor could be the best alternative, and subsequent meetings with Dela Cruz and the Tinian Legislative Delegation sealed Tinian Harbor’s fate as the ideal location for the recycling facility.

In First International Corp.’s  final meeting with the governor, Governor Fitial concurred with the proposal of having the recycling operation in Tinian Harbor, and asked FIC to submit a memorandum of understanding to the CPA.

Despite favoring the concept, the CPA had to turn down the memorandum of understanding as it did not have the $4 million necessary to repair the pier to support Slater’s company’s operations.

Recently, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Anthony M. Babauta saw the need to bring the issue back to the table, and asked Office of Insular Affairs director Nikolao Pula to look into the funding problem.

Pula is on island attending the Association of Pacific Island Legislators conference.

Variety learned that stakeholders will convene tomorrow to resolve the funding problem.

Source: Marianas Variety. 22 June 2012

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