Stakeholders support transshipment industry for Guam

Vice Speaker Tina Muna Barnes (PNC file photo)

Vice Speaker Tina Muña Barnes’ Bill 2-36 was publicly heard Thursday, receiving unanimous support from community and governmental stakeholders.

Bill 2-36, which proposes to create a roadmap to develop a transshipment industry on Guam, was introduced by Vice Speaker Muña Barnes, Senator Jose “PEDO” Terlaje, and Senator V. Anthony Ada on the first day of the 36th Guam Legislature as a means to expeditiously jump-start the economy.

The bill was conceived based on recommendations from two studies, COVID-19 and It’s Impact on Shipping and Port Sector in Asia and the Pacific which was done by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific as well as the Impact of COVID-19 on Logistics which was done by the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group.

Additionally, when presenting this initiative to both the Trump and Biden administrations, they asked for specific action items to facilitate this initiative. It was clear to the authors of this bill that both the public and private sectors of Guam must come out with a unified voice to make this a reality.

Both studies highlighted the need to develop a regional approach towards improving logistics within the Blue Continent. As seen through the COVID-19 pandemic, global trade was disrupted, and ultimately cut off many Asia Pacific Nations from any contact with the outside world; this prevented them from accessing essential commodities, critical healthcare supplies, and any type of economic activity.

The aforementioned studies propose that within the region, we look at alternate shipping hubs to prevent any future disruptions and identified short-term and long-term solutions. With the passage of Senators Torres, Muña Barnes and San Agustin’s Public Law 35-105, as well as the hard work, dedication, and track record of the PORT STRONG family, Guam is the most suited to get the job done.

While the bill did not identify a funding requirement, the Guam Economic Development Authority, through its Deputy Administrator, former First Lady Joanne Camacho, stated that GEDA can “share resources, human capital, financial and otherwise” and also “work with colleagues on the task force to seek additional funding from federal partners” as they have done successfully in the past. First Lady Camacho concluded that “The timing is right, the opportunity is now!”

Former Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez submitted testimony in support of an “intriguing and forward-looking transshipment industry-development legislation.” He adds that “The aim of your Transshipment Task Force would help the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration accomplish these diversification goals by establishing Guam as a manufacturing and transshipment hub. Congruently, Bill No. 2-36 encourages the U.S. to make better use of the Jose D. Leon Guerrero Commercial Port and A.B. Won Pat International Airport to help protect the Maritime Transportation System (MTS) from vulnerabilities exposed during the worst throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. And this makes perfect sense. Guam’s only commercial seaport is a designated U.S. Strategic Port. Our only commercial airport operates the closest U.S. aviation terminal to Southeast Asia.”

Port Authority of Guam General Manager, Rory J. Respicio also testified stating that “this bill could not have come at a better time for us as leaders of this Island to set the foundation needed to implement the initiatives that would diversify our island’s economy and expand job opportunities for our People.”

Catherine Castro, President of the Guam Chamber of Commerce submitted testimony in support of Bill 2-36, stating that “The proposed transshipment industry and establishment of a manufacturing hub has merit and has been long talked about but has not been fully vetted as a potential revenue source and viable source for employment not only for our island residents but for all of the region. The implementation of a task force would provide the opportunity for further exploration and research in the area of transshipment as well as the development of a new manufacturing hub network which, by tapping into local and regional supplier networks could create and generate a new industry and financial resource for Guam and the region. We encourage you and all senators to pass this measure.”

Former Administrator of GEDA, Karl Pangelinan, testified today in his capacity as the Director of Business and Market Development for American President Lines (APL). APL currently is a major shipping line that services Guam. He stated that “Guam has gone far too long as a 2-trick pony – Military and Tourism. We are overdue in creating the vital 3rd leg of our economy for added diversification. This bill sets out to accomplish that objective. They say you can’t teach location. It’s the very reason we benefit from the 2 leading industries on island thus far. The same strength comes into play when initiating a transshipment industry for Guam.” Director Pangelinan further added that should Bill 2-36 be passed into law, there is a possibility to lower the cost of living on Guam. “Being in the industry, I see first-hand just how the economics of the price of shipping a container from anywhere into Guam. The vessels arrive heavy and leave light. Transshipment opens up the potential for a manufacturing industry on Guam, leading to much needed exports which will have multiple benefits throughout our economy. The creation of this task force and it’s 1-year timeframe upon enactment to submit a plan to I Maga’hagan Guahan fits nicely into the need to establish new industry…and move quickly.”

“While both government and industry stakeholders, backed by reports from Global Organizations expressed their unanimous, unequivocal support and excitement to create this new industry for Guam which would finally close the loop on discussions that have been ongoing for the last few decades, I hope my colleagues realize the return on investment with this proposal” stated Vice Speaker Muña Barnes. “Throughout my lifetime of public service, I have learned that it’s amazing what you can do when you don’t care about who gets the credit. All I care about is that our economy is prosperous, and our People have jobs; this does just that.” concluded the Vice Speaker.

(Vice Speaker Tina Muña Barnes Release)