15 July 2012

Tinian mayor says ship recycling facility to benefit NMI

THE proposed recycling facility for U.S. ships on Tinian will benefit not only Tinian, but the entire commonwealth according to Tinian Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz.

In his July 9 letter to Gov. Benigno R. Fitial following up on the draft memorandum of understanding between First International Corp., the ship recycling firm, and Commonwealth Ports Authority, Dela Cruz assures, “This means more to the Commonwealth, than it does to Tinian.”

First International Corp. chairman and chief executive officer Paul Slater and consultant retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Christopher Weaver recently visited the CNMI to reaffirm their commitment to establish the ship recycling facility on Tinian.

Believing that the CNMI will benefit more from the FIC’s operation of the ship recycling facility on Tinian, Dela Cruz explained that initially all funds generated by the ship recycling operation will go to the CNMI general fund or to CPA, including all business gross receipts, excise taxes on containers full of scrap metals headed to China and lease fees paid to CPA for the use of the dock and adjacent lands owned by the ports authority.

“This means more to the Commonwealth than just creating 300 new private jobs in the recycling business,” said Dela Cruz.

He also said that it will be the first time since the demise of the garment industry that the commonwealth will be exporting products.

“It means a new opportunity to create an industry that will export products from the CNMI,” he said.

The Tinian mayor also sees the new venture will bring in other products from China.

As the recycling company’s ship bring containers of scrap metals to China, Dela Cruz said it can ship back containers filled with inexpensive “pig food”  for the piggeries, barbed wire and fence posts to expand cattle herds on Tinian.

As a local company on Saipan develops a slaughterhouse, there is a similar push on Tinian to establish a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved “kill station” that will allow local wholesalers and retailers to re-cut locally grown beef and pigs for resale, creating more private sector jobs for the people and an import substation product for local consumption or export.

No reason why project should be delayed

In his July 9 letter to the governor, Dela Cruz stated their concern with the draft MOU which he said has not yet been forwarded by assistant attorney general James R. Stump to the CPA board for action.

He told the governor, “I had hoped that this MOU would have already been accomplished, as we agreed at our joint meeting in the Senate Session Hall two weeks ago.”

He also said that the Tinian has agreed to work with the Office of Insular Affairs to reprogram over $3 million of its “precious” capital improvement project funds to do the necessary repairs at the Tinian Harbor to make the dock space functional for the ship recycling project.

A few months ago, the CPA board declined to approve the MOU citing among other reasons their lack of funds to repair the harbor which to their estimate would cost $4 million.

Now with funding coming from OIA, Dela Cruz said CPA’s only investment would be the cost of the contract with FIC to bring the project to fruition.

Dela Cruz also told the governor that he received an assurance from OIA Capital Improvement Project funds coordinator Keith Aughenbaugh that federal CIP funds could be used for this purpose.

“I see no reason why the project should be delayed and every reason why CPA should be pushing forward with it, aggressively,” said Dela Cruz.

He also said that with the Tinian Harbor fully operational, “we will be able to justify the need to receive additional federal CIP funding to repair the breakwater, thus making Tinian more attractive to military development.”

For the Tinian mayor, the ship recycling industry will also help defray the cost of completing the airport terminal at the Tinian West Field International Airport.

“We are confident that if it becomes fully functional, then international air carriers will schedule direct flights to Tinian. This then will provide a new stimulus for those companies that have already applied for casino license to begin construction on their hotel casino complex,” Dela Cruz said.

He also asked the governor that with his support, the Tinian Hotel and Casino industry can provide all the revenues the CNMI needs to make it financially viable, once again.

In thanking the governor for his commitment to the project, Dela Cruz asked the governor to call a special meeting of the CPA board and encourage their approval of the MOU with FIC.

In a previous release, Variety learned that FIC intends to tow the decommissioned vessels to Tinian Harbor where these will be tied alongside the repaired finger piers.

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

Variety was told that FIC will employ certified personnel who will oversee the collection of any hazardous materials that are discovered within the vessel.

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

First Financial Corp.

Slater, the chairman and CEO of FIC, is an expert in international finance focusing on global maritime transport and energy industries.

In the 12 years at the helm of FIC, Slater spearheaded shipping projects with the former East German government, a Chinese state shipping company, a German steel group, Spanish oil company, Shell, among others, raising over $5 billion in debt and equity.

Source: Marianas Variety. BY ALEXIE VILLEGAS ZOTOMAYOR. 10 July 2012

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