09 August 2014

PPA acts to ease congestion at Manila ports

Congestion at the ports of Manila is expected to ease up and start to return to optimum operational level by August 15 due to the various government and private sector-led measures and initiatives, according to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

PPA General Manager Juan Sta. Ana said public and private cooperation has been consistent in bringing port utilization down to its optimum level.

Sta. Ana lauded, among others, the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce for agreeing to take advantage of the government’s weekend release of cargo for at least two months, which the PPA will reciprocate by giving discounts on cargo-handling charges.

Sta. Ana also cited the direct callers led by MCC Transport, NYK, CMA-CGM, Pacific International Lines, APL, among others, in choosing to utilize Batangas for southbound cargoes and Subic for Northbound cargoes instead of coursing everything via Manila.

He added that private shipping lines have sent its sweepers at the Manila Ports clearing approximately a fifth of the estimated 17,000 to 22,000 empty containers occupying space at the Manila Ports. Three more sweepers are expected to arrive prior to August 15 to clear the remaining number of empty containers at the port.

For its part, PPA has started to implement a trucking scheme wherein only trucks that will have business or cargo to be taken out of the port will be allowed inside the port for a specific time. Likewise, empties to be deposited inside will also observe this kind of scheme.

Sta. Ana said the PPA is also contemplating on reducing free storage of Customs-cleared cargoes at the three ports.

“From the usual five days after the 45-day clearing period allowed by the Bureau of Customs, the PPA is planning reduce it and put a premium wherein any cargo staying inside the port after free storage period after clearance will be levied a penalty of more than three-fold of their existing fee for every day the cargo stays at the port,” he explained.

Meanwhile, International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), operator of the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) has offered to use its two Subic terminals with a combined capacity of about 600,000 TEUs to be a temporary container depot for empties free of charge.

Sta. Ana said ICTSI likewise offered its 21-hectare property in Cabuyao, Laguna as another facility to house empties as well as customs-bonded cargoes that has yet to be cleared by the BOC.

The port official also disclosed that the government is sending Customs-cleared and overstaying cargoes out of the Manila ports wherein transportation of such cargo back to Manila will be shouldered solely by the cargo owners. Sta. Ana said the move will drastically reduce the number of laden containers at the MICT and the Manila South Harbor to ease congestion brought about by the backlog caused by the Day-time truck ban imposed by the City of Manila since February.

“The cargoes will be stored in any of Subic’s two ports, Batangas Port or at the 21-hectare ICTSI facility in Cabuyao, Laguna. Cargo owners, however, are still given the choice to have their cargoes stored inside the two ports but will be slapped with a stiff penalty that will encourage them to takeout their cargoes within the allowable time prescribed by laws, policies and orders instead of temporarily stacking their shipments inside the ports,” Sta. Ana pointed out.

There is also a parallel move by the Cabinet Cluster on Port Congestion to lease a 15-hectare lot in CCP Complex, adjacent to the World Trade Center and behind the PICC tent to serve as temporary holding area for empty containers.

“The Government has started negotiations with the owners through a representative from the Department of Finance. The area will house all empty containers bound for both MICT and MSH. The area will be operated by both operators,” Sta. Ana disclosed.

“Under this process, all empty containers from MICT and/or MSH will go directly to this facility and no withdrawal of empties for export use in this facility. Such will be done using the existing process. To manage traffic, the port operators will dictate which time and date such empty containers will be accepted at the said facility,” he added.

According to recent PPA records, congestion continues to ease up with yard utilization at MICT — the country’s top gateway — reduced to 89 percent while utilization at South Harbor’s empty container depot is at 89 percent and its laden depot at 88 percent Both ports estimate that utilization will be reduced to 87 percent and 86 percent respectively this weekend. (Kris Bayos, Manila Bulletin)

PHOTO: MICT at the Port of Manila