While COVID-19 brings its own challenges, Guam’s only commercial port has upgrades to its cranes, commercial buildings and wharfs among its capital improvement plans.
By Matthew Choi Taitano
The three gantry cranes at Guam’s port are hard to miss on its landscape. Crane 4 is 80 feet high, and cranes 5 and crane 6 are 90 feet high.
The height of the cranes is also a good indicator of their importance to the port.
Joe G. Javellana III, chief planner of the Port Authority of Guam, says the port currently has five cranes and will demolish gantry cranes 2 and 3 as an ongoing project. The demolishing of those gantry cranes received board approval at the end of 2019, and the port is waiting to hear how much it will cost to demolish them. The port is also awaiting grant approval for the demolishment costs.
“We’re actually looking at grants to purchase a couple of more,” he says.
The replacement of cranes 2 and 3 will receive funding from the Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration.
Matson Navigation Co. was awarded a four-year technical support contract of $490,000 in October 2016 for crane 4, 5 and 6, also known as the POLA cranes at the port authority, because they came from the Port of Los Angeles, before being purchased and refurbished and arriving at the port in 2009.
In addition to crane replacement and maintenance projects, the port has ongoing capital improvement projects from fiscal 2018 through fiscal 2020.
The port is quite a way through its CIP program. “We are I would say 60% to 70% through; most of the CIP projects are [revenue] bond funded,” Javellana says. The port has a $47.5 million revenue bond.
Projects include the hotel or “H” wharf upgrade, Golf Pier repairs, waterline repairs, a financial management system upgrade and renovation of the ports administration building and construction of an annex.
Rory Respicio, general manager of the Port Authority of Guam, says, “Despite the daily struggles with the tourism industry being almost at a standstill, the port has been able to hold its own.” It has had to do so, since about 35% of the traffic is Department of Defense-related for ongoing construction as part of the military buildup, according to the port authority.
The port is working on feasibility studies by priority. “The first priority is the customs inspection facility study; number 2 is LNG feasibility study and also the solar power feasibility industry study,” Javellana says.
The “H” or Hotel Wharf project is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery or TIGER grant and is due to begin soon. “We’re currently negotiating with the selected vendor for construction management,” Javellana says. He expects the groundbreaking for H Wharf to be in September and says, “It will be going out to construction bid soon.”
Other projects include phase two of the port’s Federal Emergency Management Agency port security lighting project, which already placed 20 feet high solar lighting panels along the port’s roadways. “We provided lighting for one of our tenants, which is Cabras Marine. They never had lighting for a long time and actually when they did, they never had the chance to replace it. Through this grant, we were able to provide lighting in their wharf area,” Javellana says.
Furthermore, Wharf F5 — which has earthquake damage — was upgraded and rehabilitated through a loan from Bank of Guam guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As for the $484,000 Golf Pier redesign (which will be followed by repair), Javellana says, “Our contractor [N.C. Macario & Associates] is going through and actually finished the plans for it, and now it’s going to move toward construction.” All fuel coming into Guam is unloaded at Golf Pier. The architectural and engineering contract was signed in November.
Other ongoing projects include the replacement of port waterlines, the repair of the Warehouse 1 Building and the Equipment Maintenance and Repair Building. The total cost of these three projects is between $10 million to $12 million.
Regarding management systems, Javellana says, “We’re also upgrading our EnterpriseOne financial management system. This is an Oracle-based program. We used to have the old one, so this will allow us to be even more efficient and have more productivity with our task system.”
In addition, Javellana says, “Through the GM’s effort, with regards to reprogramming money that was supposed to be used to build a new admin building … we’re now going to do an annex and renovate the existing building.”
In the past six years from 2014 to 2019, the Port has seen an overall decrease in total revenue tons, with $1.93 million in 2014 down to $1.15 million. The Port saw its peak from this time period in 2015 with $2.38 million in total revenue tons and had more stability from 2017 to 2019.
The demolition and repair of dock B in Agat is moving forward with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We also took three different docks in Agat — dock A, dock C, and dock D, and we upgraded those,” says Javellana.
Future projects of the port will be part of its new 2020 master plan. “The objective is to accurately and effectively articulate the port’s continued near and long term vision to modernization,” Respicio says.
The port’s master plans should be updated around every five years. The 1999 plan was updated by Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2007. That plan was updated again in 2013 to reflect the Department of Defense’s intention to reduce the number of Marines to be transferred to Guam.
The port has just received $1.6 million from the Office of Economic Adjustment to develop the master plan again. “This was essential because 35% of military goods on the island go through the port,” Respicio says.
Port projects are funded by a long list of federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Office of Economic Adjustment, the Department of Homeland Security’s FEMA, the Department of Transportation, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, and Office of Public Safety.
Future projects include the assessment and upgrades of all the port’s wharves. “The objective for this is to assess and develop the scope of work to repair and upgrade all revenue generating port wharves to sustain operations and ensure un-interruption of service,” Respicio says.
For the wharfs arch and fenders F-4 to F-6, there is federal funding planned from FEMA for $483,750 and matching funding planned from the port itself for $161, 250. Fenders cushion a wharf from the impact of ships and protect the outer row of bearing piles.
In addition, the port will also have a feasibility study as part of the Master Plan for a deep draft wharf improvement project. Initially, the port will conduct a feasibility study on the construction of a new 1,500 linear foot deep-draft wharf; and also to fill approximately 17 acres of reclaimed land in three shallow embayments within Apra Harbor.
Javellano says that will be one of the last priority projects, because of the breadth of the projecct.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Respicio says, “Our biggest challenge really throughout this pandemic is to give our employees the assurances they need that their workplace environment is safe and that their families are safe,” he says.
“In order to do that, we opened up a Port clinic. Since the day it’s been opened in conjunction with Public Health — because those are Public Health professionals, nurses, and nurses aids — we have almost 19,000 visits.”
Respicio says employees, tenants and customers visit the clinic on a daily basis. “You can see sometimes the truckers pull to the side, and they run in with their daily temperature reading cards, get their temperature checked and if they’re 98.6 degrees or definitely under 101, they walk away feeling relieved that they’re not COVID-19 positive.” – Maureen N. Maratita contributed to this story.