Port Director says a new tugboat is on the way
Port Administration director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele says the US Coast Guard has allowed port to use just one tugboat at the Port of Pago Pago, with the understanding that the department is getting a new tugboat before the end of the year.
Taimalelagi made the comment during yesterday’s Senate Transportation/Port Administration Committee hearing on an administration bill seeking to hike port fees and charges. The hearing led to the tugboat issue following Taimalelagi’s testimony that revenues collected from the proposed fee hikes will go towards assisting the government - including improvements to the Port - but some senators pointed out that there is no specific allocation in the bill for port improvements.
Taimalelagi said all major capital improvement projects for the harbor are funded by the federal government; for example, the current major renovation of the dock area (close to the inter island dock) is near completion, funded with $7 million from the US Interior Department using Capital Improvement Project (CIP) money. She said ASG waited 40 years for funding for this project.
Sen. Fa’amausili Mau Mau Jr., inquired about the tugboats that were recently sold and Taimalelagi identified the Tatoso, which has not been in operation for some 3 years; and the Tautua, which has been out of commission for about 15 years.
Taimalelagi explained that the tugboats were surveyed and auctioned off by the Office of Property Management, which is the ASG entity responsible for such issues - in accordance with the law - and her department is not involved.
As to how much the government sold each tugboat for, Taimalelagi has no information available at this time because the matter was handled by Property Management.
Fa’amausili wanted to know whether there was input from the ASG shipyard regarding the vessels, to which Taimalelagi said that port engineers had conducted an assessment, including a thorough check of the engines and conditions of the tugboats.
And the outcome is that the government would spent a lot of money to get them repaired to meet US Coast Guard regulations, she said, adding that shipyard engineers, who also conducted their own assessment, concluded that it would cost over $1 million in repairs.
She said a decision was reached, in that instead of spending over $1 million for repairs - and the vessels will probably need more repairs later - it is best to use such amount of money to purchase a new tugboat.
According to the Port Administration director, engineers from port are currently in Louisiana and working with the Coast Guard on getting a new tugboat, which will be purchased using an estimated $1 million funded by CIP money.
Fa’amausili, who recently returned from Apia, then made a revelation: the Tatoso is up and running fast in the waters of neighboring Samoa without any problems.
Sen. Paepae Iosefa Faiai asked if the port has sufficient tugboats and Taimalelagi replied “no”. Paepae, who is also the committee chairman, said he is a bit concern with the proposed hike in fees and charges when there is not sufficient tugboats for incoming vessels, including container vessels.
When asked how many tugboats are at port, Taimalelagi said only the Sailele, and this prompted concerns from Paepae on how just one tugboat will be able to handle water traffic at Pago Pago Harbor, especially when there are large vessels - such as container ships - calling in to port.
Paepae asked if American Samoa plans to ask the Samoa government at a later time for use of their tugboat. He said this has been done in the past.
Taimalelagi said discussions were held with the Coast Guard, which has allowed Port to use just the Sailele, at this time, with the understanding that a new tugboat will be coming in before the end of the year. She reiterated that engineers are currently on the US mainland looking to secure a tugboat.
Taimalelagi reminded senators that regulations in Samoa are different from American Samoa, which falls under stringent Coast Guard regulations. She said that come January next year, a new federal regulation goes into effect in which a tugboat must have 3,000 horsepower, but the Tatoso only has 1,500 horsepower.
She said Port must follow these federal regulations.