Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Guam Port Misuse Saga Continues

Like The Godfather’s Michael Corleone lamenting that he keeps being pulled back into his criminal past, the Port Authority of Guam can not seem to get away from the Guam Shipyard misuse incident.

Despite PAG offering last week what it considered the last word on the subject, namely that all cargo will move through the island under the auspices of PAG as Guam law states or face legal action, the firm at the root of the shipyard incident is now challenging nearly $1 million in fees levied against it by PAG over the misuse.

Watts Constructors, which has used the Guam Shipyard to load several shipments of cargo and thus circumvented the PAG-controlled commercial port, now claims that the PAG-imposed penalties are unfair and that the firm was forced to use the shipyard because the normal port facilities could not handle the shipment.

"We understand that the Port wants to be the exclusive commercial port on Guam," said a Watts Constructors' news release. "However, as it stands now and as our situation shows, the Port is simply not yet equipped to handle the full range of cargo moving on and off the island today."

Guam law states that all cargo moving on and off the island must be handled by the PAG-controlled commercial port. However, the port has struggled in recent years to upgrade the facilities, including several failed attempts to replace decades-old cranes.

After learning of the shipyard misuse, PAG required Watts to pay fees to the port for the illegal shipment. The state government also fined the shipping agent involved.
Watts is now arguing that Guam law does not support the PAG's position in imposing those charges.

"The Port had neither the capacity nor capability to handle the load-out operations for the second voyage bound for Pearl Harbor," said the Watts release. "Thus, Watts Constructors used the Guam Shipyard Facility to load the remaining Navy cargo onto its vessel."