Monday, January 26, 2009

'No plans to remove preposition ships from NMI-for now'

By Haidee V. Eugenio

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The U.S. military does not have plans right now to remove preposition ships from Saipan because of factors within the CNMI government's control, according to the Saipan Chamber of Commerce after meeting with military officials.

The meeting followed speculations and unconfirmed reports that preposition ships are departing the Northern Marianas permanently, and that the departure is based on factors within the control of the CNMI government.

Douglas Brennan and Judge David Wiseman, co-chairs of the Chamber's Armed Forces Committee, met last week with military officials overseeing preposition ships frequently anchored off the western coast of Saipan.

“It was explained to us that there are no plans right now to remove the preposition ships from Saipan because of any perceived government slight,” the committee said yesterday in response to a Saipan Tribune inquiry.

The Chamber committee, however, said they were reminded that the ships are not homeported on Saipan but are forward-deployed anywhere in the Western Pacific region and can be underway to anywhere in the world on 12- to 24-hours notice.

Factors that contribute to determining where those ships are located when they are not underway include a regular stateside maintenance cycle, decommissioning, rebalancing of squadrons around the world, and cost avoidance.

“We were reminded during our meeting that, although the ships anchored off the coast of Saipan continue to enjoy close relationships with the Commonwealth and Guam, a preposition squadron is operated similar to a business and takes into consideration flexibility, security, logistics, and fiscal efficiency,” the committee said.

The CNMI is in competition with a number of other ports. The Chamber said the government and companies doing business with these ships need to understand that although options may be limited on Saipan, options are not limited in the very large Pacific region, and the squadron, like any business, will seek out places that offer the most convenient logistical options at the lowest cost.

“While we do not expect in the near future to experience the departure of all preposition ships on a permanent basis, we may see a decreased presence because of factors such as decommissioning and rebalancing, which are outside of our control,” the Chamber said.

The business group asked officials responsible for the preposition ships to alert the Chamber in the event that factors within the control of the CNMI government or business community become considerations in any determination to decrease the presence of the ships off the Commonwealth's shores.

Military spending in the CNMI benefits the local economy. Members of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, for example, offer discounts to military personnel who choose the islands as their liberty destination.

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