22 August 2014

Overstaying containers off to Subic

MANILA, Philippines - Starting this weekend, the two private port operators in Manila will transfer about 3,000 shipping containers to Subic to decongest the two main seaports in the metropolis.

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) said a containerized cargo ship owned by Hanjin Shipping docked in Manila last Wednesday from Hong Kong.

It was chartered by the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), which runs the Manila International Container Port (MICP), and Asian Terminals Inc.(ATI), which handles the Port of Manila (POM), will be transporting cargoes cleared by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and cargoes overstaying for over 60 days at the MICP and POM to Subic.

For 15 days, the Hanjin vessel has been chartered to make three trips between Manila and Subic to transport a total of 3,000 container vans. For its initial trip, it would transport 900 containers.

The MICP and ATI would shoulder the charter cost of P14 million.

In today’s scheduled Cabinet Cluster on Port Congestion meeting, PPA general manager Juan Sta. Ana is reportedly intending to propose to the BOC if it is open to the idea that aside from the 60-day cargoes, they would also move to Subic the containers that have been cleared by the bureau and those that have been overstaying between 30-60 days.

This would bring the total number of containers to be brought to Subic from 3,000 to about 7,000.

If the BOC is amenable to the proposal, Sta. Ana is inclined to make a second proposal to extend the hiring of the Hanjin vessel for another 15 days and pay an additional P14 million or a total of P28 million.

Meanwhile, the PPA said in a statement there has been a “significant” decline in the cargo backlog and number of empty container vans that have been clogging the two ports.

“Based on our current inventory, we have to clear about 8,175 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) as we are now below the 90 percent yard utilization threshold,” said Sta. Ana.

He added that the number of empties inside the ports also went down to only 12,000 TEUs, and the held-up containers at foreign ports have likewise declined from 37,000 TEUs some two months ago to only 20,000 as of this August.

“The reduction in the number of laden and empty containers suggests that productivity has increased dramatically, resulting in better efficiency in handling cargoes and vessels at the Manila ports,” Sta. Ana added.

About two months ago, the number of laden containers that piled up at the Manila ports totaled 99,000 TEUs, which occupied about 105 percent of the yard while the total of empty containers also reached a high of 22,000 TEUs.

The congestion was caused mainly by the daytime truck ban imposed by the Manila city government from Feb. 24 to end-May of this year that effectively limited the movement of cargoes in and out of ports during nighttime only.

House seeks lifting of truck ban

The House committee on Metro Manila development passed on Wednesday a resolution urging Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to suspend the truck ban in his city for three months to help ease the massive congestion in the ports.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, chairman of the panel, said the committee passed the resolution during the hearing on port congestion.

Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing and Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, a known critic of Estrada, pushed for the passage of the resolution during the committee’s public hearing the other day.

The resolution also asked the BOC and PPA to speed up moves to decongest the ports of thousands of containers.

“They (BOC and PPA) keep pointing fingers at each other but this kind of problem does not have only one culprit,” Castelo said.

He also prodded the two agencies to cut red tape and corruption to speed up the processing of containers to facilitate the delivery of goods to businesses and the general public.

The lawmaker also asked the two agencies to speed up the confiscation of overstaying containers.

Also present during the hearing were representatives of importers and exporters.

The committee bared a partial list of at about 40 entities that have overstaying containers in the ports, including the Department of Health.

Castelo said various firms also cited the slow government procedures for the delay of the release of cargo in the ports of Manila.

They also told the panel that it would be cheaper for them to pay fines to the PPA and the BOC for their containers overstaying in the ports rather than leasing warehouses.

Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco has proposed five steps to decongest the ports of containers, including using the empty and unclaimed containers for classrooms and other facilities in remote areas.

Haresco, chairman of the House committee on Millennium Development Goals, said empty containers that remain unclaimed for six months and over should be turned over to the Department of Public Works and Highways for conversion to classrooms and other needed facilities. (Evelyn Macairan, Paolo Romero, Philippine Star)

A vessel hired by the Philippine Ports Authority starts loading the shipping containers that will be transferred to Subic yesterday. (Edd Gumban)