Matson Celebrates 20 Years Of Service To Micronesia

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Shipper launches sakman Chamorro (sailing canoe) in Guam

By Maria Hernandez

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 26, 2016) – To commemorate 20 years of service in Micronesia, shipping company Matson on Thursday held a ceremony at the HagÃ¥tña Boat Basin where it launched a traditional sailing canoe — an event that symbolized a tie between the company’s shipping operations and Guam’s seafaring heritage.

"If you think about what the sakman did during our ancient Chamorro times, the sakman was vital to the lifeline of the Chamorros to bring goods between the islands … and help sustain life," said Bernie Valencia, Matson’s general manager for Guam and Micronesia.

Matson, a key sponsor for Festival of Pacific Arts, shipped the boat to Guam to be showcased at the festival.

"We’re very proud to be a part of this historic day and to bring the sakman home," she said. "(We’re) happy to be part of Guam and Micronesia."

FestPac is a cultural festival held every four years that brings together artists and cultural practitioners from around the Pacific region. Guam will host the event this year from May 22 through June 4.

Valencia said the company was asked to be a FestPac sponsor and the idea of bringing the canoe home was introduced by festival organizers.

"I did a little bit more research into the sakman and got really excited about what the sakman is and how we tie that to our business," she said. "It’s so related to what Matson does in Guam and for the rest of the community."

At the ceremony, Valencia spoke about the company’s deep history of servicing the Pacific.

"Capt. Matson sailed from San Francisco to Hilo, Hawaii, 134 years ago with 300 tons of food, plantation supplies and general merchandise," she said.

In 1958, in another historic event for the company, a Matson ship sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii, putting 20 containers on board.

"Since that day in 1958, Matson has been credited for containerizing the Pacific. It made life easier for cargo to move to and from different islands," Valencia said.

Between 2011 and 2015, Matson served as the only U.S. carrier servicing Guam and Micronesia.

"During those four years, Matson proudly served the rest of the Micronesian islands with uninterrupted service," she said.

Valencia thanked her employees, customers and industry partners for the company’s success over the years.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, who stood alongside island lawmakers, introduced a resolution as a formal recognition of the company’s 20 years of service to the island.

Acting Gov. Ray Tenorio signed a proclamation at the ceremony to honor the company’s milestone.

"You are the lifeline to our island," Tenorio said.

The sakman was built from a large redwood tree from northern California, he said.

The canoe was completed in 2011 and took about a year to build.

The canoe arrived in Guam early this month after leaving San Diego on Jan. 20. It was transported in a Matson shipping container.

The 47-foot canoe was built by Mario Borja, his brother Tony Borja and other members of the San Diego-based nonprofit CHE’LU, or, Chamorro Hands in Education Links Unity.

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