30 September 2015

Rising volumes push Manila, Subic to upgrade ports

HONG KONG — International Container Terminal Services Inc. is investing heavily in construction and port equipment to improve productivity that will be required to deal with rising container volumes expected through its Manila and Subic import gateways.

Manila International Container Terminal (MICT), the ICTSI flagship, has had a request to spend $107 million on expanding yard capacity approved by the Philippines Board of Investments, while Subic Bay International Container Terminal Corp. (SBITC) recently deployed three new reach stackers and 16 new Kalmar Ottawa terminal tractors.

Port equipment upgrades are being made by ICTSI, and six new rubber tired gantries have been ordered that may be deployed at either MICT or Subic terminals. This will be added to the three new reach stackers and 16 new Kalmar Ottawa terminal tractors that SBITC commissioned recently.

There has been renewed interest in Subic port that played a large role during the congestion. At the height of the bottlenecks, an order from the government temporarily lifted cabotage restrictions on Subic and Batangas ports that allowed foreign carriers to be loaded or unloaded there if Manila was backed up. Now that the Philippines has scrapped the cabotage law, there is expected to be greater volumes flowing through the country’s smaller ports.

The cabotage reform will bring down the exorbitant costs of domestic shipping and improve efficiency as foreign carriers compete on an equal level with the few local players that have cornered the market, and it has received a warm welcome from the Philippine Ports Authority.

"The major gateways have long been capable of handling bigger ships and our secondary gateways are being improved to handle international vessels," said PPA general manager Juan Sta. Ana.

"They have been improving the capacity and capability of the Philippine ports in anticipation of the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community at the start of next year, and those measures somehow help the state-owned agency adjust easily to the amendments in the cabotage law,” he said.

Roberto Locsin, SBITC general manager, said terminal productivity and efficiencies will continue to improve as SBITC makes key investments in equipment and technology. “It is also part of our effort to persuade more customers to use Subic as it is logically the gateway for these regions (central and northern Luzon),” he said.

“The new equipment, along with the opening of a one-stop shop, will allow us to continue to deliver superior customer experience for our customers from the quay to the gate including brokers, forwarders, and truckers and ultimately, the cargo owner.”

The one-stop shop Locsin was referring to is a move to house the relevant customs and port authorities under one roof to revamp the often tedious documentation process and hasten the processing of import transactions. It allows the seamless flow of transactions as port users no longer have to travel to different areas around Subic to process documents.

The MICT project will see the construction of Berth 7 in Manila’s North Harbor that will include a 300-metre wharf and back up area that when completed will be able to handle up to 2.5 million 20-foot containers.

A key part of the MICT project will be an expansion of yard space for storage of empty containers as ICTSI tries to resolve what was a significant part of the chronic port congestion that brought Manila to a standstill for most of last year.

The Philippines is a net importer of containerised goods with around 900,000 empty TEUs shipped out every year being handled by MICT. At one point during the congestion in Manila, 75,000 TEUs were waiting to be collected in the port.

Phase 1 of the Berth 7 yard development has been completed, adding four hectares of empty container depot that will be able to store up to 4,300 TEUs. An additional two hectares able to store more than 2,000 TEUs will be added by the end of the year.

The whole project is expected to be completed by 2017 and will complement the development of Laguna Gateway Inland Container Terminal, a dry port operated by ICTSI 36 miles south of Manila.

Laguna dry port’s phase 1 expansion will include extended and dedicated storage areas for loaded and empty containers, a runway for rubber-tired gantries (RTG), container care facilities, weigh bridges at the gates, an upgraded access road and a direct rail service to the sea port. The full project will effectively add 250,000 TEUs of capacity to MICT.

“Once everybody starts using Laguna dry port, we can expect even better productivity levels at MICT,” said Christian Gonzalez, ICTSI vice president and head of Asia-Pacific.

Philippine business and government officials appear to be at odds over whether Manila will experience a return of port congestion when container volumes increase ahead of the Christmas season.

Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, who heads Task Force Pantalan that is charged with finding solutions to port bottlenecks, told the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee this week there will be a smooth flow of goods with no congestion in and out of the country's ports for the upcoming Christmas season, when the volume of imported goods naturally increases.

"Everything is moving well. We don't expect problems in December," Almendras told the committee during a hearing at the legislature, according to online news portal InterAksyon.

However, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce had the opposite opinion. Local media quoted chamber president Alfredo Yao as saying port congestion might be inevitable during the last quarter because of a surge in container volumes.

“There should be tightening in the ports again because the truck ban is gone and it’s also the last quarter which is the peak season for importers,” Yao told reporters. “I hope not but there is that possibility.” Yao did concede that “it may not be as bad as last year.” (Greg Knowler, Senior Asia Editor, JOC.com)

Subic Bay International Terminal Corporation has added 16 new Kalmar Ottawa terminal tractors to its prime mover fleet ahead of an expected increase in container movement in the coming months.

full story: http://www.joc.com/port-news/rising-volumes-push-manila-and-subic-upgrade-ports_20150929.html