The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has called for the setting up of a sea link dedicated to freight services between General Santos City port in Mindanao and the Indonesian port of Bitung.
JICA emphasized the need for maritime connectivity between the two places in its “Masterplan and Feasibility Study on the Establishment of an ASEAN RoRo Shipping Network and Short Sea Shipping Final Report”, which the aid agency recently presented at the ASEAN Maritime Technical Working Group meeting in Myanmar.
The agency highly recommended the creation of a General Santos-Bitung route which it said can revive and strengthen bilateral socioeconomic relations between Indonesia and the Philippines.
“Judging from the route distance and oceanography, a middle RoRo vessel is suitable. Because of very thin air traffic demand and no passenger shipping service on the route, the ship may be dedicated to freight service,” JICA said.
The Port of Davao or Sasa Wharf is extremely congested and deteriorated, the report said. Since it poses danger to the movement of vehicles and passengers, it is advisable to use the Port of General Santos or the Makar Wharf, now operated by International Container Terminal Services Inc., as a RoRo shipping gateway for South Mindanao for the time being, JICA said.
JICA shared the stakeholders’ view that they badly need a modern liner shipping service along the route. There is limited cargo trading on the route as it has no existing liner service, but there is potential trade if a new shipping service is opened, the agency said.
“Tahuna/Sangihe Regency can be part of the shipping route as it plays a significant role in current trade in the area and is strategically located along the route,” JICA said.
The route can also be used as a shorter and cheaper alternative route to transship products to and from China, Taiwan and other points, to and from Bitung through General Santos, the agency said.
The report added that a shipping service can increase travel to other destinations through the Bitung-General Santos connection, particularly for traders, overseas workers, students, backpackers and adventure travelers.
Last year, a JICA team headed by Kumazawa Ken led the JICA/ASEAN project study that aims to assess the feasibility of establishing international RoRo connections among eight candidate routes in 17 ports in selected ASEAN countries. These are the Zamboanga City-Muara, Brunei Darussalam route with a distance of 519 nautical miles (961.1 kilometers); the Davao City/General Santos-Bitung/Sulawesi, Indonesia route, 336 nautical miles; and Brooke’s Point, Palawan-Labuan, Malaysia-Muara, Brunei Darussalam route, a 20-nautical-mile distance.
On the Brooke’s Point-Labuan route, various ship types including fast craft, semi-container ships, general cargo vessels and RoRo ships, provide short island connections. One small RoRo ship reportedly started its service in October 2010, making two return trips per day between Muara and Labuan. However, no liner service has been observed between these two points, based on information gathered in January 2012, JICA said.
Other candidate routes were Johor (Malaysia)-Sintete (Indonesia); Tawau (Sabah)-Tarakan (Indonesia)-Pantoloan (Indonesia); Dumai (Indonesia)-Malacca (Malaysia); Belawan (Indonesia) -Penang (Malaysia) and the Phuket (Thailand)-Belawan (Indonesia).
The JICA team gathered information on cargo and passenger movement through the ports, existing port facilities, expansion plans and related transport infrastructure, as well as trade and tourism projects, and gathered the stakeholders’ opinion on the feasibility of developing international RoRo connections and services.
The study started in January 2012 and ended in March this year.
Stakeholders in the General Santos-Bitung route singularly view the new shipping service as a positive development and contributor to their businesses and local economies.
The RoRo service can reduce logistics costs and boost business, trade, tourism, investments, employment and incomes. The development of the route was supported by the government and private sector in the two countries.
Photo from www.ictsi.com