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Last updateSat, 21 Oct 2017 12am

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    Friday, October 20, 2017-10:10:12A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

CPA faces dilemma over MV Luta

THE Commonwealth Ports Authority wants the MV Luta to move out of the Saipan seaport, but the vessel has no crew.

According to CPA board member Pete P. Reyes, the chairman of the seaport committee, they are trying to work with the owners, the Mendiola family of Rota, to find an amicable solution.

Reyes in an interview said the matter is now being handled by CPA legal counsel Robert T. Torres and the executive director, Chris Tenorio.

Reyes said the space occupied by MV Luta should be available to other vessels.

The problem, he added, is that MV Luta has no crew to operate the vessel.

“So we are trying to find a way to address the problem. We need the space. There’s a lot of activity at the seaport and the ship is just there, occupying a space with no activity at all,” Reyes said. “It’s also important that we find an amicable solution to that problem and our legal counsel is working on it right now and is trying to make some arrangement with the owners.”

Reyes said MV Luta is supposed to “bring goods to Rota to help the people of Rota and the economy of Rota.”

Another CPA board member, Barrie Toves, in a separate interview said moving the vessel to Rota West Harbor “would be economical to MV Luta because it will not incur daily docking fees. But my concern is when the barge arrives at Rota West Harbor, we will be faced with limited space at the port.”

He added, “With no crew, who will move MV Luta when required to accommodate other vessels? These are concerns I asked CPA management to consider before deciding to move the vessel to Rota. I don’t want to see the port operations in Rota hampered because there is no contingency plan in place.”

Toves said CPA may have to find someone to move the vessel.

“FCPA needs the dock space that MV Luta is presently occupying. When CPA needs the space, it has to move the vessel. Since there is no MV Luta crew to move the vessel, CPA has to procure service from outside sources and then invoice the owners of the vessel for the cost because the vessel has no crew at this time to move the vessel when space is needed to accommodate arriving vessels at the port,” Toves said.

“Secondly, the vessel is incurring a lot more costs if it is continuously parked and stationary at the Port of Saipan as opposed to being parked at its home port of record,” he added.

In Oct. 2016, MV Luta was seized by U.S. Marshals after a Japanese investor sued the Mendiola family and Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog for fraud, breach of contract and unjust payment. The lawsuit remains pending in federal court.

A CNMI taxpayer, John Del Rosario, sued the Department of Finance and Hocog in Superior Court for “lending” the owners of MV Luta $400,000 in public funds after the Rota Legislative Delegation adopted Rota Legislative Delegation Resolution 19-3. The lawsuit was settled in July 2017 after the CNMI government agreed, among other things, that Rota Legislative Delegation Resolution 19-3 was not a proper source of authority for the transfer of public funds under the circumstances.

In Feb. 2017 the Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against Luta Mermaid LLC, the owner of MV Luta, for non-payment of appropriated public funds in the amount of $400,000.

The Luta Mermaid officials are Abelina T. Mendiola, Deron T. Mendiola, Fidel S. Mendiola III and Fidel Mendiola Jr.