SAIPAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT — The Commonwealth Ports Authority has undertaken a joint study with the Marianas Visitors Authority the Antonio B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority and the Guam Visitors Bureau to “determine viable routes” for the Marianas island chain and “identify potential new flights and airlines ” said Carlos H. Salas former executive director of the authority.

He told the Journal the joint study which will be completed by the end of this month would likewise help the NMI to “refocus on its sales and marketing strategies … for the important markets such as Japan Korea Taiwan China and Hong Kong.” Salas said involving Guam in the route enhancement and development study “offers special opportunities for airlines to maximize flights … by selling the Mariana Islands as a special and attractive tourist destination with many islands to explore.”

“The inventory of amenities and attractions will give the visitors a long-lasting experience ” Salas told the Journal. He said the study would also address the possibilities of potential airlines both U.S. and foreign air carriers that fit the CNMI’s needs and can be contracted for air services.

Meantime he said Saipan’s seaport has the potential of serving as a transshipping point for cargo moving from China to the West Coast. “The ability of the NMI to bring in skilled labor at far less expensive wages from developed Asian countries offers savings for carriers to transship cargo in and out of Saipan using Saipan for U.S. pre-clearance services before shipping containers to the U.S. West Coast ” Salas said.

He said the less expensive wages that the skilled workers would be paid would offer savings to carriers and vendors. The NMI implements its own labor and immigration laws. Minimum wage in the Northern Mariana Islands is $3.05 an hour.

Moreover Salas said that NMI’s exemption from the Jones Act gives foreign shipping companies the flexibility of using their own workers and save on costs in operating their vessels and loading cargo at the Saipan seaport prior to proceeding to the mainland.

Exemption from the Jones Act allows a foreign carrier to port call on Saipan for cargo movements and then proceed to another U.S. port.

Given these advantages he said the authority will continue working on securing more public lands adjacent to the seaport facilities to facilitate the transshipment plans.

“If successful the transshipping activities will provide more volume of cargo which would translate into lower port fees and less shipping costs for our own cargo ” Salas said.

“As a result ” he said “We envision significant savings on goods brought into the CNMI and ultimately less expensive goods sold to CNMI residents at the retail stores.” MBJ