GUAM TO PURSUE SHIPPING RATE CHALLENGE

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By Gina Tabonares

HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety, June 27) – Guam Gov. Felix P. Camacho is expected to release $250,000 to hire legal representation for the island in the multi-million dollar case filed by the government of Guam against various shipping companies in Washington D.C.

According to Attorney General Douglas Moylan, the procurement documents for the hiring of a maritime attorney are now on the way and expected to be released today just in time for the Wednesday deadline for GovGuam to reply to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board’s notice to "show cause" as to why the case should not be dismissed.

The board, which already decided in favor of Guam, is now considering a motion to dismiss the case filed by the shipping companies because of GovGuam’s inaction.

The maritime case stemmed from the complaint filed by GovGuam against Matson Navigation and other shipping companies for allegedly overcharging Guam residents.

A favorable ruling for Guam could mean years of reduced shipping rates, affecting everything from the price of retail items to the cost of moving on or off island.

To ensure that Guam residents won’t lose millions of dollars in reimbursement from shipping companies, Camacho has signed an emergency declaration and appropriated $250,000 for the hiring of a maritime lawyer.

He also ordered the Attorney General’s Office to immediately attend to the pending maritime case that has been neglected far too long.

It was in September 1998 when GovGuam filed a case against Matson Navigation Company, Sea-Land Service, Inc., and American President Lines.

In 1999, the Surface Transportation Board ruled that the shipping companies overcharged Guam customers. The next phase of its decision was to have been the determination of how the shipping companies would reimburse GovGuam.

However, the case stalled, and in 2003, the Port Authority of Guam decided to end the contract with its Washington D.C. maritime attorney who had been working on the case.

The hearing dragged for a year after the attorney general repeatedly asked for the hearing to be delayed because GovGuam had no legal representation in Washington, D.C.

June 27, 2005

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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