Infrastructure gaps at the port posing a setback to Guam's military readiness
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Making do with aging assets that occasionally break down, the Port Authority of Guam is seeking federal assistance with port infrastructure upgrades in preparation for economic growth and increased military running.
“As a strategic asset in the national supply chain, the Port Authority of Guam, which is also a designated strategic port, plays an essential role in ensuring the effectiveness and readiness of military operations,” said Rory Respicio, the port’s general manager.
In its current state, Respicio said the island’s only commercial port does not have adequate capacity to handle an expected surge in operations.
Earlier this month, all of the port’s three gantry cranes were out of commission for repair. Gantry 4 was out of service from Nov. 8 to 11 for a faulty aftercooler replacement. Gantry 5 was offline from Nov. 3 to 11 due to mechanical issues that required a genset replacement. Gantry 6 was down for four hours on Nov. 8 due to an electrical short circuit and a blown fuse.
Manufactured between 1983 and 1984, the three second-hand gantry cranes were acquired by the Port Authority of Guam from the Port of Los Angeles. They were refurbished and brought to Guam in 2009.
Port officials said consultant reports indicated that the cranes “will reach the end of their expected service life and will need to be replaced next year.”
Respicio said the deteriorating conditions of the port’s critical assets served “as a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities in throughput capacity that will impact military readiness programs.”
“The recent disruption of all three downed STS gantry cranes has highlighted the urgent need for the Department of Defense to consider these gaps in infrastructure elements as critical components in their operational budget and to allocate sufficient funds as mitigation efforts to safeguard against such vulnerabilities,” Respicio said.
“These incidents underscore the port's pivotal role in supporting not only our island and region’s commercial and economic activities but also its critical role in military readiness in the face of looming geopolitical threats,” he added.
Respicio said the government of Guam is exploring “every possibility” to replace the port’s gantry cranes and various yard equipment.
The port authority is seeking assistance from the Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Indo-Pacific Command, the Joint Region Marianas and congressional leaders in addressing “the crucial need for robust infrastructure support as a matter of commerce, economic growth and now more than ever national security with growing geopolitical tensions.”
In 2009, the U.S. Transportation Command designated the Port of Guam as "a strategic seaport." The designation entailed increased federal investments, better access to federal security and port infrastructure funding.
Earlier this year, the port authority released its new masterplan for modernization, which was designed to meet Guam's unprecedented growth driven by the military buildup.
Among the listed projects include the acquisition of new gantry cranes, the expansion of wharf space to accommodate larger vessels, and the upgrading existing facilities to support fishing and cruise line industries.