20 July 2009

Subic is new hub of US-based cargo forwarder Atlas

Atlas Shippers International Inc., one of the leading door-to-door cargo forwarders in the country today, has signed up as a business locator in this free port, setting up a new distribution hub here for balikbayan boxes sent from abroad.

Atlas used the port of Subic as an entry point for the first time on Thursday, officially marking the US-based firm’s intent to establish its hub for Northern Luzon operations here.

The first cargo, a 40-foot cargo container that held 420 balikbayan boxes, took off from the Atlas branch in Covina, California, on June 24 and arrived here on July 15.

Atlas president Joel Longares said they decided to locate in Subic to take advantage of tax incentives in this free port, as well as lower tariff rates compared with charges at the Port of Manila, complete support facilities and infrastructures, faster document processing, and strategic location made more accessible by the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).

Longares said the first container to arrive through the port of Subic will be a test run to determine the viability of this port as the sole discharging point for Luzon.

“We’ll have to determine if we could save money this way,” said Longares, explaining that boxes for delivery to Southern Luzon will be trucked from Subic to their hub in Las Piñas City.

Longares also predicted that other shipping lines and cargo handlers may follow suit.

“It’s only a matter of time before the others locate here,” he said. “Aggressive marketing is just what the Subic free port needs [to attract other shippers].”

Longares said the company’s cargo load, which come from branches in Australia, Hong Kong, Italy and the United States, is expected to peak at about 30 containers per month.

With this projection, Atlas will hire about 50 employees for its Subic hub, where they will also install cargo-sorting equipment.

With Subic as their hub of operations, Longares said he expects the company to grow significantly and even expand to service outbound cargoes.

The company’s warehouse in Las Piñas will be maintained for their Southern Luzon operations, he said.

Meanwhile, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza noted that the business sector is now taking notice of the advantages of using the port of Subic, which boasts of two container terminals with a combined capacity of 600,000 ten-foot equivalent units.

“This is a small beginning towards greater things to come,” said Arreza, referring to the Atlas decision to use the port of Subic.

He said the SBMA’s efforts to promote Subic Bay as a maritime gateway for Luzon and a prime logistics hub for Southeast Asia is now really paying off. (Henry Empeño, Business Mirror Online)