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By Gemma Q. Cassas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 6) – After 21 years in the Marianas, a major Japan-based cargo shipping company has closed its operations on Saipan and Guam due to low profitability.

Kambara Kisen Co. Ltd.’s office on Saipan, the Kambara Shipping/Dolphin Pacific (Saipan) Inc. terminated its services to the Marianas on December 3, according to Saipan seaport manager Lee Cabrera.

Kambara discontinued its operations in Palau and Yap weeks before it closed its office on Saipan.

Documents show that the last company vessel that was here, Methane, caused Kambara about US$45,000 in losses a year.

Like Saipan’s garment factories, Kambara has been affected by the liberalization of international trade rules.

Kambara, a 102-year-old shipping company based in Hiroshima, Japan, began servicing Micronesia in 1983 using semi-container vessels.

In 1984, the company opened its office on Saipan, which was starting to develop its controversial garment industry.

Cabrera said Kambara brought in raw textile materials for the garment factories on Saipan.

However, since the start of the year, factories in Third World countries with lower labor costs can also export to the U.S. with fewer restrictions.

With Kambara gone, Cabrera said only two major shipping firms import textile raw materials for Saipan’s factories — Mariana Express Lines and Kyowa Saipan Shipping.

Cabrera said the two are planning to increase the frequency of their arrivals to cushion the impact of Kambara’s decision to leave Saipan.

He said Kambara’s departure will "not necessarily" result in higher shipping costs.

December 6, 2005

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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