MANILA North Harbour Port, Inc. (MNHPI) is in full swing in its development program for North Harbor, according to MNHPI chief executive Richard Barclay.
In an interview with PortCalls Asia, Barclay said improvements undertaken so far will allow MNHPI, which won the right to operate and manage North Harbor in 2010, to substantially improve berth productivity at the country’s premier domestic port within the year, making possible an average berthing time of 24 hours from the current 50 hours.
The latest additions to MNHPI’s cargo-handling equipment arsenal are three cranes, two of which will be operational by end-May and the third by July, Barclay said.
Four rubber-tired gantry (RTG) cranes had also been delivered and have since been used in operations, with an additional four units already delivered this month, he said.
MNHPI is in the process of ordering additional equipment such as cranes, RTGs, forklift trucks, and reach stackers. It is also looking to order specialized terminal chassis to complement its operations.
The port operator has, in addition, selected Navis SPARCS for its terminal operating system, the only domestic port in the country to do so. The system is currently in use in more than 240 terminals around the world. With this, the port offers an efficient and accurate exchange of data, optimizing logistics, something new to domestic port operations, Barclay added.
In order to service needs of the perishable trade, the introduction of reefer points is in the pipeline and is expected to be activated by September this year.
Along with these improvements, Barclay said the company regularly calls “port partners’ meetings” to update stakeholders on developments at North Harbor as well as exchange views on how to further enhance port productivity. These meetings have involved such groups as the Philippine Liner Shipping Association, Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines, truckers, pilots, tug operators, among others. Individual sessions with shipping lines are also held to address particular needs.
Along with its equipment acquisitions is the modernization and development of its facilities, such as the new passenger terminal.
“In particular, the company is excited about the new passenger terminal as it is the first of its kind in the country, something that we all can be proud of,” said Barclay. MNHPI aims to make the new passenger terminal to be the most advanced port passenger facility, with emphasis on safety, security and convenience of the riding public.
Barclay said the key challenge to the development program is ensuring the least impact on operational requirements of shipping lines and other port users such that scheduling of vessels, provision for deep-water berthing areas as well as availability of yard spaces are not adversely affected, among others. He also cited the challenge of clearing areas for development and ensuring the proper relocation of informal settlers in the port.
“We have to do a sequence in our construction so that the port has enough berths for the shipping lines. We don’t want to have queuing of vessels, of course,” he added.
The cost of the first phase of the modernization program, which includes construction of a new passenger terminal building, is about P6 billion, with around P4.6 billion having been contracted out.
Meanwhile, MNHPI is on track to hit its container throughput target of 941,403 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) this year after North Harbor handled about 200,000 TEUs in the first quarter, Barclay said.
The 2013 target is 12.55% more than 836,385 TEUs recorded in 2012. Throughput in 2011 was 756,427 TEUs.
Volume in the first quarter this year was just about the same as last year. “We had a very good first quarter last year. January-February was a bit slow this time, but the March figure was in the high 70s,” he said.
Barclay is confident volumes will pick up “as the 2GO Group has decided to consolidate its services at North Harbor with the phasing-in of its operations at the port in the next several weeks.”
Similar to the petition for a nationwide tariff adjustment filed by the Philippine Chamber of Arrastre and Stevedoring Operators, MNHPI recently filed its own for a petition for tariff adjustment of 25.57% with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) as well as for a crane rate of P1,900 per TEU. For the tariff adjustment, Barclay noted that with the prevailing reduced tariff levels averaging 10% since the commencement of MNHPI operations, the proposed adjustment is effectively only at about 15% vis-á-vis tariff levels when the last increase at the port was granted by the PPA.
Barclay said he is hopeful the PPA will decide by end-May on the request for a tariff hike, which has been challenged mainly by shipping lines and other port users. He noted the groups are not opposed to the request for tariff increase and crane fee per se, owing to increases in cost drivers as in any other business or industry. “It’s just a question of how much.”
Photo courtesy of MNHPI