SANTA RITA Guam and PUERTO RICO Saipan — A new shipyard in Saipan will provide within the year up to 100 jobs in the Northern Mariana Islands a new repair facility for ships and boats and an apprenticeship scheme.

In October the Commonwealth Ports Authority approved a proposal by Marianas Shipyard for a $4.25 million dry dock project.

The facility will be able to accommodate repair needs of pre-positioned U.S. Navy ships as well as other smaller vessels in the Pacific areas said Carlos H. Salas executive director of the authority.

Matthews Pothen president of the Guam Shipyard and the Marianas Shipyard said the deal would bring new jobs to the Northern Mariana Islands. “It will mean 60 to 100 jobs within the next two years.”

Pothen was quick to point out that Marianas Shipyard was still in negotiations with CPA and that the company’s proposal was approved but not yet awarded. “The proposal was approved … the proposal to develop a small shipyard and manufacturing facility at the port of Saipan.”

The dry dock was likely to offer business development he said. “We believe there are commercial opportunities that can be captured by having a shipyard at the port of Saipan.”

The facility can be up and running in 2006 Pothen said. “Marianas Shipyard is looking forward to having a shipyard operational with all certifications within six to 12 months.” He said that the shipyard would be able to service Asian-flagged vessels.

He said issues with the company doing business in the NMI were addressed. The Guam Economic Development and Commerce Authority initially had some concerns about the project and sent letters to Salas and Pothen. Gerald S.A. Perez former administrator for GEDCA wrote “Although GEDCA believes that the Guam Shipyard committed to keep all of the equipment related to the floating dry dock AFDM-8 (U1C13864) at its shipyard on Guam and that its refusal to withdraw its stated intention of moving the equipment to the CNMI is a violation of its sublease GEDCA is willing to waive and accept this breach of its obligations in order to facilitate your project.” (See “GEDCA letters could sink dry dock deal” in the May 30 edition of the Journal.)

The contract was moving ahead Salas said. “CPA and Guam Industrial Services is finalizing the contract at this very moment which will trigger the commencement date of the project. This facility once in place will enhance the capability of the port of Saipan and also attract a new customer base that is in need of an efficient and cost-effective ship repair facility in the Pacific area ” he told the Journal.

Salas said the project involves a first-class dry dock facility for smaller vessels and boat repairs from the NMI and the Pacific region with the ability to work on vessels 250 feet in length and weighing 4 000 long tons.

The dry dock unit is flexible because the maximum length that could be accommodated can be modified to 650 feet at 15 000 long tons. “The main market contemplated by the firm are the pre-positioned Navy ships numerous small crafts in the CNMI and Guam tugs and barges and fishing vessels in the Pacific areas ” Salas said.

He said of the $4.25 million total project cost $1.5 million in capital funds will be invested while the remainder will be used for dry dock equipment crane and machinery. He said while the dry dock unit is a floating facility the company would require areas on land for buildings and related infrastructure like power water and sewer to support operations. Salas said the company and its principal would have to generate money internally to address those needs.

The shipyard will also be required to put an apprenticeship program in place after a few years of operations to help local workers obtain special skills in vessel repairs.

Salas said the project could be operational within a six- to nine-month period.

The company received approval for its proposal through a competitive request for proposals. CPA embarked on a dry dock project in 2004 noting that the ship repair facility in Guam was designed for large ships.

Pothen said he hopes negotiations will be completed within three months but recognizes the NMI just held elections.

— Jay Baza Pascua contributed to this story.