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    Wednesday, November 20, 2019-2:24:43A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Outer Cove Marina unsafe, says DLNR chief

ONE injured tourist can have a major impact on tourism, the CNMI’s only industry, Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Anthony T. Benavente told lawmakers on Thursday when he was asked to explain the closure of Outer Cove Marina.

Benavente was invited by House Committee on Commerce and Tourism Chairman Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero to a meeting, which also discussed the implementation of a $3 fee for each passenger of commercial boats that dock at Smiling Cove Marina.

Click to enlarge
Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Anthony Benavente, third left, gestures as he speaks before the members of the House Committee on Commerce and Tourism in the speaker’s conference room on Thursday. Also in photo are House legal counsel John Cool and legislative assistant Cameron Nicholas.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

Outer Cove Marina is no longer safe because it is now falling apart, Benavente told lawmakers.

“Thank God there has not been a major accident over the years,” he said, “but we know the structure is falling apart, and is very unsafe.”

He added, “We want to ensure the safety of our tourists. Just one injured tourist will have a major impact on the CNMI tourism industry. The CNMI government cannot allow commercial boats to use an unsafe structure.”

Following the closure of Outer Cove Marina, DLNR imposed a $3 fee on the passengers of commercial boats transporting tourists to and from Managaha.

Guerrero said he understands the need to ensure safety. “We need to be mindful that our only bread and butter is tourism, and if our tourist arrivals do not improve the government’s coffers will be affected.”

Benavente said since 1999, fees have been imposed on commercial vessels that dock at Outer Cove Marina.

He said the government stopped charging fees when it had to close the docking slips following Typhoon Soudelor in Aug. 2015 because it was determined by the Department of Public Works-Technical Services Division that the facility was unsafe.

However, he added, commercial boats continued to use the Outer Cove Marina despite the closure order.

This means that since Aug. 2015, operators of commercial boats that charge up to $14 per passenger had not been paying fees, Benavente said.

He said the three remaining walkways to the slipping docks were destroyed recently by Typhoon Hagibis.

Commercial boats are allowed to use Smiling Cove Marina, but the government has to collect fees again, Benavente added.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife, which is under DLNR, said the fees will be the source of funds for improving and maintaining Smiling Cove Marina.