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PPA dismisses fears of new port congestion

2 international ports expected to be ready for surge in economic activity
/ 06:51 AM July 24, 2015

The government has allayed the public’s fears of a recurrence of congestion at the ports of Manila that slowed down trade and contributed to a weak 6.1-percent growth last year.

The sluggish economic expansion did not even meet the low end of the government’s target growth last year. Some big business firms in the country indicated receiving reports of a possible recurrence of the 2014 port congestion starting August or September as shipments start to surge for the holiday season.

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Port regulator Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), however, said the two international ports in Manila have reached optimum ideal capacity that made them ready for the anticipated surge in activity starting the holiday season this year up to next year’s national elections.

In a statement, the PPA said the Manila South Harbor and Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) were operating even better prior to the pre-port congestion level in February 2014.

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PPA general manager Juan Sta. Ana said the two Manila ports were more than ready to handle the anticipated rise in cargo volume in the coming months brought about by the Christmas season and the upcoming national elections.

Yard utilization at South Harbor and MICT is at 55 percent to 59 percent, or about 44,000 to 48,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), according to Sta. Ana, adding that port productivity “has really gone up to all-time highs resulting in faster turnaround time for cargoes and vessels to and from the port.”

Industry figures on utilization in the Port of Manila was even better with the MICT utilization down to 51 percent. The easing in the situation at the ports came despite volume in the Port of Manila posting a double-digit growth. Port operators have also taken steps to prevent backlogs at the ports.

The MICT engaged 1 Stop of Australia to implement TABS or Terminal Appointment Booking System, which has targeted September for the system’s first run. The pullout of containers had also been stepped up as a result of a collaboration among consignees, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI).

Less storage resulted in more yard space at the ports.

Ports suffered from massive backlogs after the Manila city government imposed a daytime truck ban beginning late February 2014. Effects of the congestion were felt long after the ban was temporarily lifted in September.

Sta. Ana said measures put in place by the government, terminal operators and stakeholders have contributed in preparing the two ports for the upcoming peak season.

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“While we anticipate some glitches, we can easily address it particularly now that we have almost zero vessels waiting at anchorage and the number of cargoes coming out of our gates has been steady,” Sta. Ana said. “Barring any major policies implemented outside the ports, we will never see another scenario just like last year where port operations really hit rock bottom.”

In the first four months of 2015, total cargo volume handled by PPA ports reached 66.6 million metric tons (MT), 6.33-percent higher than the 62.63 million MT posted in the same period last year. Domestic cargoes registered a 6.87-percent rise to 27.75 million MT from 25.97 million MT last year. Foreign cargo rose 5.97 percent to 38.85 million MT from 36.66 million MT a year ago. Imports rose 7.69 percent to 22.21 million MT from 20.63 million MT in 2014, while exports increased 3.75 percent to 16.63 million MT compared to 16.03 million MT posted in 2014.

Among the Manila ports, MICT continued to handle the largest volume of foreign boxes with 650,629 TEUs, followed by South Harbor with 280,736 TEUs. North Harbor handled the most domestic containerized cargoes.

Sta. Ana added that the container booking system to be implemented by operators of the two Manila ports would prevent trucks without any port transaction from crowding the port and slowing down terminal operations.

The PPA added that the number of empty containers had dropped substantially due to the cooperation between terminal operators and shipping lines in managing the flow of empty containers.

Sta. Ana said the movement of import and export containers “will continue to improve as time goes by” as stakeholders adjust to the different policies imposed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs.

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TAGS: Manila, Manila South Harbor, MICT, Philippine Ports Authority, port congestion, ports, Shipping
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