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Proposed bill gives Port director authority to review & change fees every 5 years

The now closed Fono building awaiting demolition. [SN file photo]

The government has proposed fee hikes on several Port services, through a bill now pending in the Fono.

The measure gives the Department of Port Administration director the authority to review fees and charges every ve years, and if necessary, initiate modification.

The ASG Revenue Task Force during a presentation to the Fono early last month as well as Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga during his address on July 11th to a joint Fono session, touched on the bill, which raises port fees in American Samoa, increases the existing charges on wharf, and allows Port fees to be amended through rule-making authority.

According to the Task Force presentation, ASG collects over $4.5 million annually under current Port fees and charges; but under the proposed hikes, the government is looking to collect just over $7.11 million per year.

In his letter to Fono leaders, the governor pointed out that the territory has maintained the current port fees for over 30 years without any changes. However, he said the costs of maintenance, equipment, human resources, and services have drastically increased in that interim.

According to the administration, the territory’s needs at the Port continue to grow, and the costs of those needs should mirror such growth as well. Furthermore, the territory’s current Port fees are well below comparable fees in other neighboring Pacific Islands.

Samoa News understands that some local businesses including the canneries have sought input from their shippers on estimate costs of doing business, if the proposed hikes go into effect.

One big concern is that the hikes will be passed on to consumers and some business owners — who asked not be identified — have serious concerns that the hikes will have another impact on the canneries.

StarKist Samoa executive Taotasi Archie Soliai, who is also the Chamber of Commerce president, said at last week’ s Chamber meeting that the cannery is looking into the impact to the company’s operations on the fees and charges being proposed at the Port.

Among the proposed hikes, the established license fees for master or engineer of boat carrying passengers, currently at $5 will increase to $8.50

The administration is proposing several amendments to a provision of the law (20.1403) — titled, Determination of Fees, which is based on the draft of a vessel. Current pilotage fees are $350 for all vessels plus an additional fee of $3 per foot of draft or fraction thereof for all vessels over 12 feet. Not with standing the above, when the services of a pilot are actually required for a deep draft vessel the minimum charge shall be $100.

The administration is pro- posing the current pilotage fees cut down to $85 but up to $5.10 per foot for all vessels over 12 feet.

Additionally, when the services of a pilot are actually required for a deep draft vessel, the minimum charge will be $170.

The bill also proposes to set the “base rate for pilot tows fees... at $85 for all vessels; and $5.10 per foot for all vessels over 12 feet.”

Other fees will change — for example — moving vessels in harbor from $100 to $170 for each move; from $100 to $170 for each anchoring.

Current law states that yachts with less than 12-foot draft shall be exempt from pilot fees unless the services are actually performed. The bill proposes to set the fees at $17 per foot for services actually performed.

Additionally, yachts of over 12-foot draft shall be charged non-pilotage fees of $8.50 per foot for yachts that do not require actual services.

Other highlights:

• loading and unloading of cargo — currently $2 — shall be charged $3.40 per 40 cubic foot for each ton of cargo or fraction thereof, whichever is greater. For shipments under one ton, the wharfage charge is pro-rated with a minimum charge of 85-cents for each 40 cubic feet of cargo.

• outgoing cargo, a fee of $1.70 per 40 cubic feet or fraction thereof. The current fee is $1 per 40 cubic feet.

• goods stored in a government warehouse or other areas in excess of 72 hours will be charged $3.40 for the first three days, up from $2; and after 3 days the rate shall be $6.80 — up from $4.

• inbound containers, increased from 50-cents per day to 85-cents per day when 120 hours have passed after arrival and the containers haven’ t left the dock. After 3 days the fee jumps to $1.70 per day. The same fee will apply to out- bound containers. Containers belonging to the canneries are exempt from these fees if used within 30 days after arrival or if these containers have canned sh. After 30 days a charge of 85-cents per container shall be applied for 31 days and beginning on the 32nd day, charges will go up to $1.70 per container, per day.

The administration is proposing that such fees and charges may be modified every five years and the Port director shall review these fees every 5 years and if necessary, initiate modification of fees and charges through the Administration process.

Due to the current high costs and expenses of Port projects and the strain on government funds, this bill must be effective immediately upon passage by the Legislature and approval by the Governor, according to the bill’s language.