OPERATIONS at Manila’s seaports continued Tuesday despite heavy monsoon rains enhanced by tropical storm Maring and as widespread flooding in the metropolis and nearby provinces grounded flights, and affected activities in the supply chain.
Business went on as usual at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT), the country’s premier port, and the Manila North Harbor, the main domestic port, although both ports reported slower cargo traffic because of flooded streets leading to the piers.
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport was closed to most flights as flooded runways prevented takeoffs and landings. Roads leading to the airports were also flooded. Philippine Airlines, PAL Express, Cebu Pacific, Seair and Tigerair Philippines cancelled multiple flights on Tuesday and Wednesday. Some international flights were allowed to operate although delays were noted.
MICT general manager Christian Gonzalez, when contacted by PortCalls, said the port does not stop operating during weather disturbances such as the present monsoon.
However, he said the port’s “customers cannot pull out containers because the roads to their factories are flooded, factories are closed because a lot of the labor have difficulties reaching the plant, and because government agencies are closed.”
He said all these factors create a major cargo backlog that leads to very heavy peaking.
“This is further compounded by the truck ban when roads and businesses reopen,” Gonzalez said. During these periods of heavy flooding combined with holidays, “terminal efficiency becomes affected primarily due to the above-mentioned backlog,” he said.
“Meanwhile, ships are worked continuously thus building up inventories in the terminal,” Gonzalez added.
Gonzalez said the port shuts down only during typhoons of a certain wind magnitude, adding that MICT “has very, very specific guidelines related to making these decisions”.
Asked what vessels do when the sea is unstable, Gonzalez said: “We have a massive breakwater to the northwest and another to the west which effectively protects the basin where our berths are so it takes a very strong typhoon to make the basin rough.”
At the Manila North Harbor, Richard Barclay, chief executive of the Manila North Harbour Port Inc., said the port’s main concerns in times like these are the “safety, security and comfort of passengers, port partners and our employees.”
He said fortunately most of the North Harbor employees live nearby.
“Currently, we have 17 gangs deployed to vessels requesting (service). Stripping is continuing. For office-based staff, we have skeletal manning today,” he told PortCalls on Tuesday.
Barclay noted road movements have the largest impact during bad weather, causing “minimal” movements for inbound and outbound cargo haulers. “We will review the cost impact later,” he said.
Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines president Ruperto Bayocot told PortCalls in a text message he had advised his trucks not to operate in this kind of weather. He said almost all trucks do not want to make trips because of floods.
He said if the foul weather continues for four to five days more, “there will be container congestion at the ports.”
Most operations for members of the Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines (SCMAP) stood still due to the flooding.
SCMAP president Arnel Gamboa told PortCalls in a phone interview on Tuesday that most metro operations of association members had stopped since Monday because factories, warehouses and retail outlets were closed.
SCMAP member-companies, numbering about 100, handle distribution of goods across the country.
“This flooding will have a major impact on the logistics industry,” said Gamboa, but noted “it’s hard to tell the financial impact of this calamity right now.”
He said while Maring’s rainfall level as of Tuesday had been just a fourth of what Ondoy dumped, the floods had already submerged areas hit by the earlier typhoon.
Gamboa said SCMAP members are, however, better prepared than when typhoon Ondoy struck in 2009, causing massive flooding.
“I think the lesson we can draw from this is that the public and private sectors should take a look at garbage disposal management and tree replanting.”
SCMAP executive director Ed Sanchez said the group is closely monitoring the situation. He said a general membership meeting called for Thursday had been cancelled.