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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Sept. 25) – Representative Ray N. Yumul says some containers loaded with stolen copper wire may have left the Northern Marianas despite two existing laws that require authorities to inspect them and shipping companies to declare what they are transporting overseas.

Yumul, Ind.-Saipan, said the shipment left Tinian via Saipan for China on Sept. 17.

He said the information he received was that the copper wire may have been stolen from the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. and was mixed with legitimate scrap metal to mislead authorities.

CUC lost copper wire from its Isley field plant.

Yumul said shipping companies should be aware of what they are transporting.

"It is incumbent on shipping companies to ensure that they not become an unwilling party to shipping stolen goods, particularly copper wire," he said.

"We have information that those shipments were not properly searched. We have to remind the shipping companies that they are liable for what they are shipping," he added.

Acting Customs Director John Cepeda acknowledged that their office cleared some cargo bound for China last week but he said there was no indication that they contained stolen copper wire.

He said they have been inspecting all sea-cargo that leaves the Saipan Seaport following a spate of copper wire robberies.

"We did inspect some (scrap metal cargo bound for China) last week," said Cepeda. "They were mostly cans and regular copper."

He said all the scrap metal from the commonwealth goes to China.

Last month, thieves took off with copper wire and aluminum conduits from the abandoned La Fiesta Mall and American Memorial Park with an estimated value of $400,000.

The goods are believed to have been shipped out of the commonwealth to China where the demand for copper wire is at an all time high.

Copper is a good electrical conductor and is used as an ingredient in the manufacture of alloys, brass and bronze.

Cepeda said their office is drafting a form that will help customs inspectors implementing laws on copper wire shipments.

Public Law 15-36, as amended by P.L. 15-55, mandates a 45-day waiting period for recycling firms shipping scrap metal out of the commonwealth unless they have been cleared by the Department of Public Safety and the Division of Customs.

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