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04 February 2009

SBMA Seaport posts 26.6% growth in 2008

Limping from the ban on the importation of used cars and the slowing global economy last year, the Subic seaport nevertheless finished 2008 with stellar performance as it surpassed target revenue collections by 21 percent and posted a 26.6 percent revenue growth over its 2007 record.

Retired Captain Perfecto Pascual, who heads the Seaport department of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), said actual collections by the Subic seaport amounted to P276.24 million versus the P228.21 target for 2008.

This was a record increase of 26.6 percent in seaport revenue compared to actual collections of P218.2 million in 2007, added Pascual.

Pascual said that 2008 could have been a disastrous year for the SBMA seaport, had not officials initiated fiscal reforms to override the effects of Executive Order (EO) No. 256 that banned the importation of used cars.

The Seaport department, he added, got off with a slow start, posting a 20 percent drop in revenues for the first quarter of 2008 compared to 2007.

"Historically, (the importations) brought in a significant income for Subic, but the ban consequently brought down ship calls and cargo. Then the global financial crisis hit us in the second half of the year, and this did not spare the shipping industry," Pascual related.

What saved the day for Subic, Pascual said, was the decision of the SBMA to modify its policy on vessel and cargo charges, including those levied on the Philippine Coastal Corp., whose exemption from paying said fees was cancelled by the SBMA in the fourth quarter of 2007.

This resulted in P3-million worth of additional revenue each month, he said..

Pascual added that the 2008 revenue upsurge was driven mainly by the updating of shipping fees being collected in the Port of Subic, and the April 2008 startup operation of the 300,000- TEU New Container Terminal (NCT-1), which rakes in some P4.3 million into the SBMA Seaport's coffers monthly.

He said the SBMA board also approved in April last year an increase in SBMA's share and cargo-handling fees, from 10 percent of the cargo handlers' gross income, to 15 percent.

This rate is still comparatively lower than those charged by other Philippine Ports Authority (PPA)-administered ports, Pascual said, pointing out that the Port of Manila collects 20 percent, while the Port of Cebu collects 15 percent and 22 percent for local and foreign cargoes, respectively.

However, Pascual said the economic slowdown that began last year left a 20 percent shortage on bulk/break-bulk cargoes as against 2007 records. Still, Hanjin Heavy Industries Inc.-Phil's continuous shipbuilding operations raised revenues for the importation of heavy equipment and steel products by 172 percent, he added.

According to the SBMA Seaport yearend report, total export and import transactions in Subic fell by 19.4 percent last year to a total of 29,730 from 36,451 in 2007.

Ship calls posted a modest 6.3 percent growth — 1,893 compared to 1,781 in 2007. Projection for 2009 is placed at 2,052, with total tonnage of 15 million.

Pascual said that because of the economic slowdown, Subic forecasts a smaller volume of containerized cargo this year, from a total of 29,370 TEUs last year to 28,551 TEUs.

In terms of non-containerized cargo, this year's forecast is 2.19 million metric tons, compared to the 2008 record of 1.87 million metric tons.

Despite the global economic downturn, the SBMA Seaport expects revenue of P316.3 million this year, compared to actual revenue collections of P276.24 million in 2008.

"We could turn this crisis into an opportunity for the Port of Subic," said Pascual, who noted that collections this January already amounted to P30 million, which is bigger than the record P29 million monthly collections made in July and August last year.

"The slowdown in the shipping industry, ironically, turns out good for the Port of Subic since shipping lines began to use Subic Bay as a place to lay by their vessels," Pascual explained.

As of last count, 22 vessels are laid up in Subic Bay to wait out the recession. The SBMA Seaport earns about P6 million monthly from these idle ships, he said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)


PHOTO: A cargo vessel unloads containers at Subic's New Container Terminal-1

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