Friday, October 22, 2010

Guam Port Celebrates 35th Anniversary

The commercial port of Guam celebrated its 35th anniversary this week, with five days of celebrations and ceremonies marking the formation of the Port Authority of Guam.

The celebrations began Monday with a flag-raising ceremony and will conclude Friday with an awards banquet.

The United States government turned over the port to the island nation in 1966 but it was not until 1975 that the autonomous PAG, which oversees the port's operations, was formed.

During the past 35 years, little of the port's technology or infrastructure has been upgraded – a problem being addressed by a more than $260 million PAG port development plan.

The modernization plan received a sizable boost on Sept. 25, 2010 when the United States Defense Department appropriated $50 million to PAG – the first major source of funding obtained for the project.

The PAG has cited the federal funding as critical to kick starting the modernization plan to upgrade the island's commercial port infrastructure. The most critical need for the upgrades is to deal with the anticipated increases in cargo from an impending relocation of U.S. military operations on the Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam. The military buildup will see more than 8,000 Marines, their operations and more than 9,000 military dependents shift from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. The buildup is set to begin later this year.

The first phase of the modernization plan is expected to cost just over $100 million and focus on critical waterfront infrastructure and equipment upgrades at the port. The PAG also plans to use the $50 million in Defense Department funds to secure an additional $50 million loan for port upgrades from the US Department of Agriculture.