Home » Maritime » More cargo traffic, vessels expected this year

THE Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) both expect a livelier maritime industry this year. Against the backdrop of a volatile local political and economic landscape and a projected modest world trade growth, Philippine cargo traffic will grow between 3% and 5% this year to 134 million to 138 million metric tons.

PPA General Manager Alfonso Cusi

There will be a flurry of port activities, with many directed at port construction in support of the administration’s flagship project, the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH). The SRNH aims to interconnect all islands of the archipelago through intermodal transport. Launched in April last year, the highway now consists of 22 links in more than 41 ports nationwide. This year, up to 40% of PPA’s capital expenditures will be allotted for Mindanao, according to PPA general manager Alfonso Cusi. “We want ports developed in Mindanao to help improve business activities there and lower transportation costs and promote port efficiencies,” he noted.

Port projects. There are six port projects for implementation this year. Three are undergoing post qualification – the Pagadian reclamation and extension of the reinforced concrete RC) wharf, Caticlan port development, and Pola-Pola port development – and the other three – General Santos reefer rack structure and power house, Cagayan de Oro RC wharf extension and the Port of Abra de Ilog development project – pre-qualification bidding. Other projects this year include bidding for the North Harbor, expected to start by the second quarter upon completion of the bidding terms of reference; and continuing work on the second phase of the Batangas Port Development (BPD) project. For completion in 2005, the BPD is expected to considerably help decongest cargo traffic at the port of Manila. As of December 2003, the project had a completion rate of 29%. MARINA in 2004 MARINA, too, expects more shipping activities this year with around 60 vessels from small- and big-time shipping operators coming in.

MARINA administrator Oscar Sevilla said this is partly due to the relaxation of the bareboat chartering policy. The approval of the Domestic Shipping Development Act (DSDA) of 2002 is also seen to bode well for the local shipping industry Awaiting bicameral committee approval, the Act aims to modernize the dilapidated domestic shipping industry through policy reforms.In particular, it seeks to level the playing field between local and international shipping industry players. The Act also provides a package of incentives to assist local shippers. In addition to approval of the DSDA, MARINA is working for the gradual phase out of wooden-hulled vessels, the traditional cause of maritime accidents.

MARINA administrator Oscar Sevilla

Sevilla concedes it may, however, take at least ten years to implement a phaseout. “It’s just a matter of determining the duration and the particular type of vessels to be phased out. But definitely, we will give ample time for shipping operators to prepare in time for the PPA to upgrade ports that could accommodate the large steel-hulled vessels,” he said. MARINA is also optimistic about the future of the SRNH. “We are continuously encouraging shipping operators to invest and participate in the project. With the way things are going, it appears that the ro-ro highway will grow further, especially when new ships were brought in,” Sevilla said. Bilateral agreements with other countries, meanwhile, appears to offer more promise this year. Sevilla disclosed the Philippines recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the Japanese government allowing Filipino seafarers to train onboard Japanese vessels.

The agency was also able to secure long-term education and training for seafarers with Dutch government assistance.

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