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By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 11) – The local government has restarted preparations to negotiate with two ocean carriers that offer to help avert a potential cargo gridlock Guam's civilian port.

The Port Authority of Guam has received advice from its legal counsel, and which was agreed with by the local General Services Agency, that it's OK for the agency to proceed with negotiations with Horizon Lines and Matson Navigation.

"As far as our position, we were very clear from the beginning that this is not a procurement process," said Port Authority Board of Directors Chairman Monte Mesa as he told fellow board members of the legal counsel's opinion and GSA's concurrence with the port's position.

At the port board's meeting last month, it decided to hold off on deciding who would negotiate -- on the Port Authority's behalf -- with Horizon and Matson to iron out the financial terms of the offer.

Horizon and Matson plan to spend a combined $12 million to $15 million to buy, refurbish, ship and install three gantry cranes at the local government-run seaport.

The Port of Los Angeles sold the cranes last month, and Horizon and Matson won the bid, the Port of Los Angeles has confirmed in an e-mail.

Because the Port Authority is not buying the cranes, it took a position that the local bidding process is not necessary.

But a former gantry crane bidder, which represents China crane manufacturer ZPMC, had written a letter to the local GSA, raising the issue as one that's subject to the local bidding process.

Horizon and Matson account for about 80 percent of all cargo shipped to Guam by sea, and their cargo volumes are expected to surge with the billions of dollars in military buildup-related construction projects on Guam.

The ocean carriers' Guam managers have said in a previous port board meeting that the additional cranes they propose to bring to Guam would assure them their ships wouldn't get stuck with unloaded cargo in the event the port's two cranes encounter a prolonged breakdown.

The local port has two aging gantry cranes after an even older one went out of service about a year ago.

When the Port Authority's previous attempts to buy its own gantry cranes hit procedural snags with the local General Services Agency, Matson and Horizon came forward with the offer.

The port board has approved a five-year license agreement that would allow Matson and Horizon to install the cranes on port property.

To ease Port Authority workers' concerns about job security, the agreement specifies that, "to the maximum extent possible," local government workers will operate the Matson and Horizon-owned gantry cranes.

But the crane owners will keep management control over the maintenance and repairs of the cranes.

Horizon and Matson will pay the port a $23,556 monthly fee for use of port property in connection with operating the three gantry cranes.

But what's still subject to negotiations is the Matson-Horizon request for, among other things, a reduction or abatement of its tariffs for stevedoring services, or to establish a new tariff to "reflect the fact that Matson and Horizon are providing their own gantry cranes for cargo operations," according to their joint letter to the port.

In preparing to enter into negotiations with Matson and Horizon on the financial terms, the port board yesterday selected Joseph Camacho, chairman of the board's finance committee, to take the lead in the negotiations.

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