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Apra Harbor too shallow for some ships

By Zita Y. Taitano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, April 22, 2008) - There continues to be a shortage of cement on Guam, thus hindering the completion of a number of construction projects. According to Derek Sadler, of Hanson Permanente Cement of Guam, Inc. and the sole provider of cement to Guam, some of the reasons stem from problems they’ve been having with shipping.

"There is a worldwide shortage of cement vessels," Sadler said, "Like right now we have one shipment tied up, but where we live there’s many issues that impact shipping. The weather is part of it as well as vessels that break down. That’s what got us in the situation; our vessel was down for about two weeks and led to the delay."

Other factors include the space they use at the port when the cement vessel comes in. Sadler said the water depth is about 6 meters, but needs to be at around 10 meters in order to fully accommodate the ship and the load of bulk cement it brings in.

Port Authority of Guam Acting general manager Carlos Salas confirms the port needs to expand and said the PAG is working closely with Hanson.

"What they propose is rather than dredge the area so the ship can come in closer to the dock area and off load the bulk cement, we’re looking at extending the mooring to a deeper draft or area where the vessel can actually dock to the pier and then off load the cement," he said.

The situation has raised concerns with contractors and construction companies. Hawaiian Rock president Jerold Johnson said the shortage has occurred at least five times this year and ranges from a couple of days to around two weeks.

James Martinez, executive director of the Guam Contractors Association, said the issue affects the employees mostly, especially those whose primary job deals only with cement.

"All the construction companies whether they are big or small are impacted by this," Martinez said.

Johnson said the company does have a storage supply of cement here for customers, but that this can only last so long and eventually the employees would have to end up going home without a paycheck. Johnson said that while he is aware of Hanson’s situation, they are looking at other alternatives.

"(We) are going to bring some bags of cement from off island for customers," he said. "We try to do everything we can to service our customers with the cement that’s available,"

Salas said the port authority is also looking into other ways to resolve the problem.

"The port is exploring ways where the private sector could actually get involved and enhance the capacity of the port," he said. "As we speak there are a couple of interested parties that we’re exploring with and (while) I’m not at liberty to discuss details of it, the whole idea is to use the private sector also to help the port meet the shortfalls that will be needed to meet the demands of the buildup," he said.

There is a happy ending to the situation. Sadler said they have another vessel but it’s currently in a dry dock in China for repairs.

"Once that vessel comes out, it will bring about 9,000 metric tons of cement to Guam," he said. The new vessel should be in port by the end of the month.

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