08 September 2014

Subic, Batangas to be designated extension ports

MANILA, Philippines - The government is set to designate Subic and Batangas as extension ports to help decongest the ports in Manila in time for the surge in cargo shipments for the Christmas season, a Cabinet official said.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is set to sign a memorandum of agreement with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority designating a few berths in the former US military base as extension of the ports of Manila.

“So if your bill of lading specifies Manila, it could be dropped off in Subic,” Abaya said.

Likewise, he added that the same arrangement is being considered for the port of Batangas.

He said shipping lines could call on two ports so it could offload either in Batangas or Subic and load shipments in the ports of Manila.

“Most of the cargo being offloaded in Manila are bound for Batangas or Southern Luzon. So I think we could make arrangements that these shipments could be offloaded in Batangas, in the same way, those who are northbound could be offloaded in Subic,” he said.

The PPA has given importers and brokers until today to remove overstaying customs-cleared cargoes inside the congested ports of Manila, otherwise these containers would be shipped immediately to Subic and Batangas.

At present, importers, exporters and brokers have a five-day grace period after Customs clearance to remove their containers. The cargo would be seized in favor of the government after 15 days.

“We are giving them five days to ship out their goods effective Sept. 8. If they don’t we’ll ship them out to Subic. They are using the ports as their warehouse instead of investing in their own warehouse so we are removing them,” he said.

Starting Oct. 1, Abaya said the government would impose a 10-fold increase in storage fees to decongest the ports of Manila.

Fees for unclaimed cargo would increase to P5,000 from the current P500 for each 20-foot container; to P8,750 from P842 for 35-foot containers; P10,000 from P962.6 for 40-foot containers; and to P11,250 from P1,082.90 for 45-footers.

Congestion at the Manila International Container Terminal of International Container Terminal Services Inc. and South Harbor of Asian Terminals Inc. has caused massive traffic jams in major streets in Metro Manila, extending up to the North Luzon Expressway as trucks trying to get inside the ports clogged major thoroughfares.

Utilization rate at the ports of Manila is expected to improve to 88 percent towards the end of the week after climbing to 90 percent due to the long weekend as containers being released at ports continue to climb to 4,400 per day from 4,200.

As of end June, the number of laden containers piled up at the Manila ports totaled 85,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), which occupied about 104 percent of the port yard, while total 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 that practically limited the movement of cargo in and out of port to nighttime only.

House probe

Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian filed a resolution urging the House committee on transportation to conduct an inquiry into the immediate use of the Subic and Batangas City ports as part of a long-term solution to the problem of congestion at the Manila ports.

Gatchalian filed the resolution last week to allow Subic and Batangas City ports to “share the load of processing containers” and will greatly help in decongesting the ports in Manila.

Both facilities have a combined capacity of 600,000 TEUs and are strategically located near Metro Manila, which means Subic and Batangas ports can substantially ease port congestion in Manila.

“Goods heading to Northern and Southern Luzon may instead be assigned to the Subic and Batangas ports, thereby easing the congestion in Manila ports. Those ports have a huge potential in contributing to the economy. They just have to be fully utilized,” he said.

Gatchalian is a senior vice chairman for the House committee on Metro Manila development and a majority member of the committee on trade and industry.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo urged the PPA to hire container vessels, not trucks, to transfer the empty containers to Subic to decongest the Port of Manila.

Castelo, chairman of the House committee on Metro Manila development, said the use of ferries would spare the streets of all the trucks that cause monstrous traffic, slowing down economic activity. (Lawrence Agcaoili, with Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero, Philippine Star)

Vessel hired by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) loading empty containers bound for Subic and Batangas ports