Home » Ports/Terminals » Shippers complain of chaos at the North Harbor

JUST days after Manila North Harbour Port, Inc (MNHPI) took over operations of the North Harbor, port users are already complaining of delays in their operations.

Truckers, shippers, vessel operators, dockworkers and other personnel of companies operating at the port claim they are having difficulty reporting for work.

A statement from various stakeholders released through the Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA) said the port is now suffering from congestion with the new guards deployed by MNHPI barring entry of stakeholders unless they have an official pass from MNHPI.

“It’s very chaotic at the North Harbor right now. Traffic is everywhere,” the statement said. “Guards will check everybody. Even employees are not allowed entry. MNHPI rules and regulations change everyday!”

As of this writing, MNHPI guards still did not have a list of employees allowed entry into the facility.

“Customers and truckers are now asked to go to the MNHPI office to pay for arrastre/port charges before they are allowed entry and exit at the port,” the statement said.

“Almost all entrances and exits to the piers/terminal area are blocked off with movable wire fence.”

MNHPI has limited entry points at the port and closed the Moriones and Pacheco gates. Entrance is only allowed at the Zaragoza Gate (Pier 4) and exit at the Herbosa Gate. The Negros Navigation Gate at Pier 2 is also just half open for entry and exit.

Stakeholders are now calling on the Department of Transportations and Communications (DOTC) to intervene and revert to the old system while waiting for resolution of a case filed last week by the PLSA.

The case before the Supreme Court seeks to invalidate the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA)-MNHPI contract because of controversial provisions allowing the imposition of a 5% concession fee on ancillary services; minimum cargo-handling equipment requirement; and the labor package entered into by the new operator with port workers.

In addition, PLSA complained that the PPA did not properly inform them of the order lifting the suspension on the port turnover.

As of press time, a meeting among DOTC, PPA and MNHPI officials was in full swing. No details have emerged from the discussions.

MNHPI’s takeover of North Harbor from PPA began over the weekend, more than three months behind schedule.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) last Monday, MNHPI said it “has mobilized its cargo handling equipment, port labor and other complementary operational requirements and has commenced operations at the Manila North Harbor as of 2000hrs of 11th April 2010.”

The turnover has been occasioned by much protest from the labor sector in fear of massive job losses, and shippers who see higher freight rates resulting from a contract provision allowing the imposition of a 5% concession fee on ancillary services. Shippers also questioned the cargo-handling equipment installed by the new operator, claiming they did not meet the minimum required under the contract.

Last Sunday, some employees of previous cargo-handlers at the North Harbor staged a strike in protest of the turnover. Riot police were brought in to break up the scuffle between port guards and dock workers, which left five persons injured.

PPA general manager Oscar Sevilla claimed in a television interview on Monday that the strikers were “paid” troublemakers.

Around 5,000 port workers may be displaced and some 30,000 rendered homeless once MNHPI goes full blast with the North Harbor development.

MNHPI has earmarked P14.5 billion for the modernization of the country’s biggest domestic port, mainly for the construction of a modern passenger terminal and other facilities and acquisition of heavy equipment, as well as dredging operations.

Under an agreement with major labor groups operating in the area, MNHPI agreed to absorb 1,200 to 1,600 legitimate workers, and advance payment of more than P100 million representing past service benefits — equivalent to 26 days for every year of service – for port workers who will be re-employed.

For those employed prior to January 1, 2000, computation of payment shall be reckoned from January 1, 2000. For those employed after January 1, 2000, computation will be from their actual date of employment.

MNHPI also agreed to extend financial assistance to bonafide porters. The absorbed employees shall be considered new hires and their employment with MNHPI governed by new employment contracts.

MNHPI is a joint venture between Harbour Centre Port Terminals, Inc and Metro Pacific Investment Corp (MPIC). In a separate disclosure yesterday, MPIC confirmed it wants to increase its stake in the joint venture to 50% from the current 35%.

Under the 25-year operations and management contract, shippers may expect a 10-15% reduction in port tariff and rates. The PPA, on the other hand, stands to earn P6.8 billion.

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