Home » Maritime » Changes to Domestic Shipping Act pushed

Local cargo carriers are pushing for the amendment of implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 9295 or the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004 to address conflicting provisions of the law.

Members of the Philippine Liners and Shippers Association (PLSA) are specifically questioning the issuance of special permits to foreign-flag vessels and the rules on trampers.

The carriers said they have yet to experience the growth promised by the law, but are instead seeing a shrinking of their markets due to procedural conflicts in the issuance of special permits to foreign vessels.

Trampers allowed to operate on liner routes without complying with the necessary liner requirements have eaten up 10% of the market of liner operators, the PLSA said.

“We have an ‘unlevel’ playing field here. RA 9295 was passed to level the field but the opposite is happening,” a PLSA official told PortCalls.

“The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) should clearly define the reasons (behind the) issuance of special permits to foreign vessels and such vessels should not be allowed to operate in the domestic trade for a long period of time,” the official explained.

“If Marina deems there are justifiable reasons for issuing permits to foreign-flag vessels for local operations, (the issuance) should only be for a limited period and not subject to extension,” he said, noting that this would protect the interest of local operators and prevent violations to the country’s Cabotage Law.

PLSA has proposed that foreign-owned international vessels be allowed to operate locally only if they agree to fly the Philippine flag and if their crew is composed of Filipino seafarers. In addition, no foreign-flag vessels with foreign crew should be allowed to operate on local waters for more than three months, the association said.

Marina currently issues special permits to foreign-flag vessels if there is a clear shortage of local bottom.

Despite PLSA claims that the shortage has been corrected even before end-2007, there was still one foreign-flag vessel with a foreign crew that continued to operate locally as of last week.

The foreign-flag vessel’s sustained operations by virtue of an extension of its permit issued by Marina, could be a precedent to the entry of other foreign-flag vessels in the local trade in violation of the country’s Cabotage Law, said the PLSA official.

“We want to amend these rules as these are really detrimental to local cargo carriers,” he added.

PLSA counts Oceanic, NMC, and Solid Shipping Lines among its members.

“Trampers should also be disallowed to operate on liner routes unless they are subjected to the same requirements enforced on certified liner operators,” the official said.

The Marina has yet to start reviewing the implementing guidelines of RA 9295 despite announcements made two years ago that an assessment will be conducted.

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