Home » Breaking News, Customs & Trade, Maritime, Ports/Terminals » Manila Harbour Centre high berth use seen to rise even more
 current berth utilization at the bulk and break bulk terminal is from 80% to 89% while yard utilization is above normal at 80% to 85% with some vessels still waiting to berth.

Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc has  denied allegations its facility, the Manila Harbour Centre, is illegally storing rice imported by the National Food Authority.

Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc. (HCPTI) said it has been applying measures to ease high berth utilization at its port Manila Harbour Centre even as it expects utilization rates to stay above normal with the influx of vessels come November.

HCPTI vice president for operations James Lomeda, in an interview with PortCalls on the sidelines of a port tour on October 28, said current berth utilization at the bulk and break bulk terminal is from 80% to 89% while yard utilization is above normal at 80% to 85% with some vessels still waiting to berth.

Earlier, Lomeda said Harbour Centre has been operating at high capacity since 2012, noting that vessels calling the terminal have not only become bigger but that cargo volume has exceeded expectations.

READ: Harbour Centre responds to bulk and breakbulk cargo pile up

HCPTI executive vice president and general manager Ferdinand Valdez said they have been discussing with the ship agents’ association, vessel principals as well as clients ways to continue easing high utilization. Specifically, clients are being encouraged to send smaller vessels for faster accommodation at the pier side. Some have already done just that, Lomeda noted.

Even more efficient stowage and vessel gear plans are also being suggested.

Other measures are already in place, including lightening load of big vessels. The terminal has likewise constructed additional cargo storage containment facility, and has been completing its yard pavement project to ensure safety and ease of movement inside the yard.

It has begun fabricating the bulk conveyor system to improve bulk cargo discharge to 8,000 metric tons per day, and embarked on an equipment refleeting program to double efficiency.

As for the proposal to increase storage rates to discourage clients from using the port as a virtual warehouse, Valdez said the Philippine Ports Authority has advised HCPTI that the operator can impose premiums since Harbour Centre is a private port. Valdez said they are studying the planned increase and its potential effect on clients.

More than all these measures, Lomeda said the ultimate solution is to expand terminal capacity in order to accommodate current and future growth. He noted that at a recent bulk and break bulk conference held in Singapore attended by HCPTI officials, it was pointed out that the global shipping trend is really towards using bigger vessels.

Terminal expansion, however, requires Philippine government approval which does not seem forthcoming in the very near term.

Not storing rice

In another development, the company belied allegations that the port was being used to illegally hoard rice imported by the National Food Authority (NFA). On a port tour, HCPTI officials showed media that its lone warehouse, used to store light and rain-sensitive steel shipments, is not fit for holding rice shipments. The company explained bags of rice are normally unloaded to trucks straight from the vessels.

Last September, the consumer group National Coalition of Filipino Consumers asked the NFA to look into allegations that HCPTI was hiding tons of rice and that it was being used by rice smugglers and hoarders to manipulate the market price of the commodity. NFA has cleared HCPTI of the allegations and explained that, after an investigation, it found the terminal is only being used as a transshipment point for the transfer of NFA-imported rice to NFA-designated warehouses.

HCPTI vice president for corporate affairs Mark Roy Boado said they will file libel and civil suits against those behind what it calls a “fake” consumer group, Alliance of Concerned Citizens for the rice hoarding accusations. The alliance is supposedly led by a certain Perfecto Tagalog.

Boado claimed competitors were behind the smear campaign with the terminal set to renew its contract when it expires in 2017. – Text and photo by Roumina Pablo

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