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Former shipyard CEO who worked with Sanchez gives some history

David Robinson and Larry Sanitoa
“Carlos and I personally funded the initial wages of some of the shipyard staff,” says Robinson

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — With the governor’s appointment of Carlos Sanchez as the executive director of Shipyard Service Authority, a former chief executive officer of the government owned facility shared some history about when ASG took back the Ronald Reagan Marine Railways shipyard from private operators about 10-years ago.

David Robinson, who now resides in New Zealand, and is also a former chair of the American Samoa Chamber of Commerce, pointed to a Samoa News story this week, which reports Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga’s appointment of Sanchez as the new boss of the shipyard.

He explained that prior to the return to government control of the shipyard in July 2011 during the time of the Togiola Administration, “it was Carlos and I who — because of our involvement in the preparatory work — were appointed by the then Gov. Togiola T.A. Tulafono  to be two of nine Directors on the shipyard Board with Carlos appointed as the Chairman and myself as the Deputy Chairman.”

“Carlos and I personally funded the initial wages of some of the shipyard staff and bought tools and equipment as there were no available funds, no bank account and all the tools and equipment had been stolen [from a local vendor] the day or night before the take over by government,” Robinson said via email from New Zealand. “We were never reimbursed.”

When Sanchez resigned at the end of January 2013, Robinson said that he took over the Chairman and CEO positions — “both of which I held until the time I resigned in August 2015 and both [of us] were unpaid … for almost twelve months in order to assist the shipyard with a reduction of expenses.”

Robinson explained that it was during his tenure that the shipyard that it “actually made a net trading profit and we had a strong cash flow and an active debt collection regime.”

“We paid for extensive clean up of the property and repairs to the cradle and capital improvements which included a new hauling chain costing $212,000, a new Westinghouse hauling engine $76,000 and a new backing chain $37,000, and together with assistance from the late Lawrence French realigned the 630 feet of railway system at a cost of over $10,000 all from our strong cash flow from work going through the shipyard,” he explained.

“To my knowledge the financial performance figures of the shipyard during my tenure as CEO has never been equaled and I raise the issue as I read about all the other people involved since mid 2011, and never once have I seen any reference to the efforts that I put in to get the shipyard up and running from the years of Southwest Marine and MYD [Samoa] mismanagement,” he concluded.

Samoa News reported on Wednesday that Sanchez was the first board chairman after the government took over full control and operation of the shipyard. He was also one of the locals who was on the forefront selected by the Togiola Administration to be part of the team that surveyed and cleaned up the shipyard when it was taken over by the government, after being contracted to the private sector for many years.

The shipyard has been out of commission since an Oct. 1, 2019 slipway “derailment” incident.