It was business as usual at the CNMI Senate Thursday, with passage of a resolution 'supporting' a proposal to salvage ships. Wouldn't you think their time would be better spent in researching Worldwide Salvage and state and federal laws on shipbreaking?
It's a dirty, nasty, dangerous job. Just for starters, here's an Occupational Health and Safety Administration Fact Sheet. Asbestos, PCB's, lead: that's just the sort of imports we need.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD) has only approved six shipyards for disposal of obsolete ships. Four are in Brownsville, Texas; there are none on the West Coast.
There is a reason for that. MARAD characterizes ship scrapping as a risky, highly speculative business, and says startup companies tend to be thinly capitalized. GlobalSecurity.org estimates that environmental health and safety requirements constitute as much as two-thirds of the cost of ship scrapping.
Shipbreaking is an international scandal, with the most toxic ships ending up in the Third World. Do a quick internet search and you'll find hundreds of references to the shipbreaking beaches of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
Maybe this is a grand idea. How about checking the financial capacity of Worldwide Salvage to make sure we don't end up with a hulk rusting in the harbor? How about getting details of their plan, including typhoon preparations, before 'conditionally approving' it?
By contrast, the Commonwealth Ports Authority had a measured, reasonable response to the proposal. Maybe the Senate could let CPA do its job. They'd have more time to do theirs.
Back in the day, I used to regularly visit a CNMI Senate staffer for the inside skinny on budget bills. But that wasn't his most important job, judging by what occupied his time. He was an ace resolution writer.