In a bid to decongest the ports of Manila, the government in cooperation with foreign shipping lines and port operators yesterday agreed to send and park empty container vans at the Manila ports to Subic for free and give a 90 percent discount on berthing fees on ships docking at the Batangas port.
The empty containers that have remained stuck in the container yards in North and South harbors have compounded the artificial congestion caused by daytime truck ban imposed in Manila in February.
The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) said there are 17,000 empty twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) that sit at the ports of Manila, that when shipped out, will greatly reduce congestion.
Juan C. Sta. Ana, general manager of PPA, said that in a meeting attended by officials of the Bureau of Customs, the Association of International Shipping Lines, International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), Asian Terminals, Inc., the Department of Trade Industry (DTI), the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) among others, it was agreed that foreign shipping lines will send sweepers to the ports of Manila — composed of the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) and the Manila South Harbor — to ship out the empties to Subic Bay International Terminal Corp’s New Container Terminal 1 and ICTSI Subic Inc.’s NCT2 and 2 in Subic. Both are subsidiaries of ICTSI, operator of the MICT.
SBITC and ICTSI Subic, will not levy any port fee, including arrastre and stevedoring, to all shipping lines that will bring their empties to these ports.
The foreign shipping lines and ICTSI agreed to start the process tentatively August 10 to give ample time for both parties to iron out the kinks of the process.
All parties are also looking at directly sending boxes bound for North of Manila to Subic once the consignees empty the containers, instead of bringing them back to Manila and sending them to Subic via the sweepers. Approximately 30 percent of cargoes passing through the Manila ports are northbound.
The Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines (CTEAP) has agreed to come out with a favorable fare matrix for this alternative as shipping of containers via trucks will be in the account of the importers.
The PPA also encourages shippers to divert cargoes to the Batangas International Port after Malacanang has approved a 90 percent discount on port fees in the next six months.
Sta. Ana said President Aquino has approved a discount for ports fees at Batangas for one year. In the first six months, the 90 percent discount will apply on the berthing or docking. The discount would be brought down to 50 percent the succeeding six months.
“(That has been) approved by the Cabinet Cluster this morning” Sta. Ana said.
The new fees matrix will be implemented once the written guidelines are signed by President Aquino.
“ It’s a two-tiered discount aimed at attracting more vessels to call at Batangas City so we are just waiting for the written guidelines by the Office of the President,” he said.
Sta. Ana said in addition to Maersk, two shipping firms one of which is NYK Line ( Nippon Yusen Kaisha) yesterday unloaded 230 containers inbound, loaded 120 containers outbound and sent 100 empties to Batangas.
“We are also looking forward for a call from a fourth vessel from American President on July 20 We need to attract more ships to call at Batangas port and Subic” Sta. Ana said.
Batangas port has enough capacity to help address congestion in Manila ports.
The 15-hectare facility has a capacity of 450,000 TEUs but only handles 12,000 TEUs. With more ships calling the port, volumes are expected to increase dramatically.
Government agencies PPA, BOC, DTI and PEZA have also been pushing clearing and withdrawing cargoes on weekends to l greatly reduce congestion and traffic at the ports.
Port operators ICTSI and ATI are willing to operate on weekends to guarantee that their ports will revert back to normal operations in the next couple of weeks while the PPA, BOC, the banks, shipping lines will also open their offices to assist in the withdrawal of cargoes and receiving of containers.
Currently, shippers and consignees prefer to clear and withdraw cargoes on weekdays to avoid premium payment if it opens shop on weekends.
“The weekend clearance and release of cargo will greatly ease congestion at the Manila ports and will ensure timely delivery of cargoes to companies,” Sta. Ana said.
“While there is a premium to be paid in clearing and withdrawing of cargoes on Saturdays and Sundays, bigger savings will be recorded over time through faster delivery of goods and lower cost relative to demurrage and storage fees,” Sta. Ana explained.
“The PPA is also looking at more ways on how to incentivize companies that clear cargoes on weekends in order to attract more to do the same,” Sta. Ana added.
Aside from the weekend release of cargoes, government is also looking for ways on how to get rid of overstaying empty containers at the Manila ports including using the two Subic ports and Batangas port that is run by ATI as depository for empty containers including tapping a 21-hectare property of ICTSI in Cabuyao, Laguna.
At the moment, the ports of Manila remain clogged despite the 24-hour truck express lane opened by the city of Manila and the six-month suspension of the Metro Manila truck ban to clear the three-month cargo backlog.
For the Southbound cargoes , particularly those for Laguna, Batangas , Rizal and Quezon , empty containers will be directly transported to Batangas Port while empties to and from Cavite will be transported back to Manila for proximity reasons along with other empties that will be picked up immediately by the shipping lines.
For exporters needing boxes for shipments that will be shipped out via Manila can get boxes in Batangas or Subic before they are be transported to Manila.
Written by: Myla Iglesias