Military Sealift Command ships routinely anchor off Saipan. Maritime Prepositioning Ship [MPS] Squadron Three, normally in the Guam/Saipan area, has four ships. The ships are crewed by civilians under contract to the U.S. Military Sealift Command. MPSRON Three ships operate out of Guam and Saipan without a permanent homeport in that area.
The Navy estimates its crews spent about $5.6 million in Saipan in 2000 from port visits by ships using the Farallon de Medinilla range.
Saipan Lagoon encompasses about 20 square miles of mostly shallow water and is separated from the Philippine Sea by a long barrier reef about 2 miles off shore at the entrance to Tanapag Harbor. The lagoon, with its flora and fauna, is the principal recreational resource of the Commonwealth. The width of the lagoon created by the reef varies from less than 300 feet to over 1.5 miles. The depth of the lagoon varies and in many areas it is possible to wade across to the reef.
With the flagship of the United States Navy's Seventh Fleet anchored majestically at port, on April 9, 1999 Rear Admiral Jonathon W. Greenert, Governor Pedro P. Tenorio, and CPA Chairman Roman S. Palacios cut the ribbon which officially opened the $46 million Port of Saipan. The port's grand debut, the culmination of the Saipan Harbor Improvement Project (SHIP), took place more than 20 years after its original inception and six years after construction began in 1993. The port today is a world-class facility featuring 2,600 linear feet of berthing space, a 22-acre container yard, a water line, an underground fuel line protected by a concrete vault, an underground sewage removal system and dockside lights for nighttime operation. Additional improvements included the upgrading of the port's electrical system to better accommodate refrigerated containers. It is also easier than ever before to reach the Port of Saipan. The channel, turning basin, and berthing areas have been widened and deepened to a uniform -40 feet in order to comfortably welcome medium to deep draft vessels into port. With the help of the United States Coast Guard, CPA improved its navigational aids and repositioned the harbor buoys to mark the safest route into port.
Saipan Harbor includes Garapan Anchorage, the outer anchorage, and Puetton Tanapag. Puetton Tanapag (Tanapag Harbor) is also referred to as the inner harbor. Puetton Tanapag is sheltered by the barrier reef to the north. Most of the outer anchorage has been swept to 52 ft (15.9 m), with some shallower areas swept to lesser depths. The lagoon formed by the barrier reef is mostly shallow except for the harbor basin. The entrance channel to Puetton Tanapag lies due west of the harbor basin. As of 1979 the channel had been dredged to a depth of 29 ft (9 m) and a width of 350 ft; it was proposed to be dredged to a least depth of 30 ft (9.1 m) and a width of 540 ft.
The usable portion of Puetton Tanapag, the harbor basin, is approximately 1 n mi from east to west and 1/2 n mi from north to south. This leaves little room for maneuvering if conditions become rough. The commercial port lies on the southeast shore of the harbor at pier C; the other piers were rendered unusable by a typhoon in 1968. The front of the pier, which faces north, has a length of 530 ft and a minimum depth of only 23 ft (7 m). The south side of the pier is the most sheltered but is only 200 ft in length and only 20 ft (6 m) deep. The wharf on the east side of the pier is used by small local boats. U.S. Navy ships (normally LSTs) occupy wharves 2 and 3 on the front of the pier. There are several anchorages within the harbor basin; the recommended maximum draft for anchoring is 26 ft (8 m). The holding ground consisting of coral and sand is considered good. The two buoys which exist are not intended for use in typhoon conditions.
There is no berth or anchorage available in Saipan Harbor that would be safe during the close passage of a typhoon. Saipan Harbor, being small and shallow, is not susceptible to extreme seas being generated within the barrier reef. The main problem is with externally-generated seas and swells entering through the harbor entrance, which is almost 1 n mi wide. Since the harbor entrance faces southwest, Saipan is most susceptible to tropical cyclones which pass to the west and especially those on a northward track. Such an event happened with the passage of Typhoon Olive on 30 April 1963. Typhoon Olive was the worst typhoon to hit Saipan in living memory.
Bahia Laulau, also called Magicienne Bay or Lau Lau Bay, lies on the southeast coast of Saipan Island. The bay is used solely as an anchorage, there being no berthing facilities whatsoever. The bay is entirely open to the southeast and thus is exposed to the prevailing winds and swells. The bay, however, does offer protection from northerly and westerly winds. Much of the shoreline is fringed by reef and fronted for a short distance by shoals. The 10-fathom line lies generally less than 400 yards off shore and outside this the bottom drops away steeply. Large vessels can anchor in convenient depths off the village of Laulau at the northern side of the bay.
Magicienne Bay is one of the most beautiful areas and the largest natural bay in the Northern Marianas. It is deep blue with reefs and white narrow beaches with rocky outcrops upon which waves crash. The cliffs are steep with caverns. Upland from shore, dense tropical vegetation flourishes on soil which gently slopes toward the cliffs. At its deepest points the bay is from 2,400 to 3,000 feet. The current within the bay is circular flowing from the southern portion and following the inside contours around the bay and exiting at the northeast.
Bahia Laulau, having no protection to seaward whatsoever and being very deep except close to shore, is susceptible to all southeasterly seas and swells without attenuation. However, protection is afforded for all seas and swells approaching from directions between southwest through northwest to northeast. The best protection is afforded for northwesterly seas and swells. Since most tropical storms approach from directions between south and east, Bahia Laulau is likely to be severely affected in the majority of cases.
Saipan is the capitol of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The island of Saipan is approximately 13 n mi in length and has an average width of about 3 n mi, making it the second largest of the Mariana Islands. Saipan has a total land area of 46.5 square miles which is about the size of San Francisco. Saipan is slightly larger than Hong Kong but smaller than the District of Columbia. Saipan is four and one half times smaller than Guam, 120 miles south, and in 1990 had about one third the population of that U.S.territory. Geographically, Saipan is located at 15.1 degrees North Latitude, 145.7 degrees East Longitude, in the Western Pacific. Saipan is about 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers) west of Hawaii, and about 1,250 miles (2,012 kilometers) southeast of Tokyo Japan.
The island has a rugged structure. A ridge extends from the northern tip of the island southwestwards and attains a greatest height of 1555 ft (474 m) at Ogso Tagpochau (Mount Tagpochau), an extinct conical volcano located near the middle of the island. The east side of the ridge is steep and the west side slopes gradually to flat, cultivated land which extends to the coast. The south part of the island is a low, flat plateau. The whole eastern shore of the island is formed by rugged, rocky cliffs. The northeast and southeast shores of the island are, for the most part, steep-to and clear of off-lying dangers. The west and northwest shores are fronted by barrier reefs, within which are shallow lagoons.
The "Northern Marianas" are a chain of islands in the Western Pacific, extending northward from Guam (but not including the island of Guam). The three most populated islands in the Northern Marianas are Rota (50 miles north of Guam), Tinian (140 miles north of Guam), and Saipan (150 miles north of Guam). Virtually all travel to Saipan is by airline. Continental Micronesia Airlines and Northwest Airlines serve Saipan from the U.S.A. (via Tokyo or Guam). A number of other airlines also have direct flights to Saipan from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and the Philippines.
At 0840 on June 15, 1944, initial waves of the 2nd and 4th U.S. Marine Divisions stormed onto a narrow beachhead on Saipan. The enemy guns were ranged-in on the beaches and shells rained down with deadly effect. Marine units, supported by Naval and Army Air Corps bombardment, and joined by the U.S. Army's 27th Infantry Division, waged savage warfare. For most of the soldiers, seamen, and airmen it was yet another invasion. For many it would be their last. For the world it was the beginning of the end of the Pacific War.
The Marianas Campaign of World War II was the most decisive battle of the Pacific theater. With Saipan secured on July 9th, U.S. Forces were able to cut off vital Japanese supply and communication lines, and American B-29 bombers moved within range of the Japanese homeland. The end of the war with Japan followed 14 months later.
American Memorial Park honors the American and Marianas people who gave their lives during the Marianas Campaign of World War II. At the Park's Court of Honor and Flag Circle, the American flag proudly flies, flanked by the flags of the U.S. Marine Corps, Army, Navy, and Air Force. Surrounding the flags is a memorial containing over 5000 names of those who made the final sacrifice for freedom. Situated on 133 acres (54 hectares) of land along the western side of Saipan, the Park commemorates those who fought in the Marianas campaign of World War II. The Park's concept of a "living memorial" offers activities enjoyed over half a century ago by American service men and women. Visitors to the Park can enjoy similar activities today, including water sports, tennis, softball, jogging and bicycling. Bordering the Park is Micro Beach, one of Saipan's finest white sand beaches, beckoning windsurfers, snorkelers, sunbathers and picnickers.
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