Manila’s international container terminals are no longer congested as yard utilization has gone down to ideal levels, according to Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero.
“As of March 6, yard utilization at the Port of Manila [POM] was at 63%, while that of MICP was at 73%. With this, we can confidently say that there is no more port congestion in both ports,” Guerrero said in a speech during the 29th National Convention of the Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. on March 8.
BOC-Manila International Container Port district collector Atty. Erastus Sandino Austria, during a panel discussion at the same event, said MICP’s yard utilization is now hovering between 75% and 76%, down from the 97% to 100% early this year.
He said yard utilization is expected to further go below 70%, arguably the international standard, once around 4,000 overstaying laden containers from MICP are moved to other depots.
At a separate event hosted by Cavite Gateway Terminal on the same date, Austria said MICP as of March 8 no longer had vessels waiting at the pilot station while six vessels were being serviced at berth at 16 moves per hour.
Port operator Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI) on March 5 and BOC-POM on March 6 also said Manila South Harbor, or POM, is no longer congested with yard utilization down to 64% as of March 4.
Laden containers piled up at POM are at 78% while empty containers are occupying only 47% of the yard as of March 4. Moreover, vessel queues at POM have gone down to six ships from as high as 21 previously.
The improved yard utilization and reduced vessel queuing at the two ports are attributed to the collective efforts of BOC, terminal operators, and international shipping lines.
BOC-POM transferred about 400 overstaying laden containers to ATI’s yard in Sta. Clara, Batangas, and more overstaying laden boxes continue to be moved.
“Faster processing of transactions for the release of shipments had resulted to less delays in the berthing of vessels and unloading of shipping containers in the yard,” POM district collector Atty. Ma. Rhea Gregorio earlier said.
ATI also struck an agreement with several international shipping lines to fast-track and intensify the evacuation of empty containers from POM.
Some shipping lines have also transferred some of their empty containers to other ports for evacuation from the Philippines.
MICP, for its part, recently met with foreign shipping lines, which have committed to evacuate about 2,500 empty containers every 24-hour cycle to reach the target of loading 17,500 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) onto vessels each week for repositioning out of the country. This will be done as MICP’s port operator, International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), will open more “double transaction” slots during weekends, starting March 9 and 10. Double transaction is when a truck delivers an empty container inside the terminal, and then loads a laden container when moving out of the port.
Austria said that as “things stabilize in MICP, we will be increasing the double trans [transactions] on weekdays.”
Other initiatives to address high utilization in Manila port include the agreement between the Association of International Shipping Lines, Alliance of Concerned Truck Owners and Organizations, Container Depot Alliance of the Philippines (CDAP) and ICTSI to move out 5,000 overstaying containers at MICP to a bonded warehouse outside.
CDAP will also identify areas that may be leased to increase empty container storage capacity by 10 hectares. ICTSI will cover the cost of the lease on a market rate basis.
The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) on March 1 also directed all importers, consignees, cargo owners, and shippers to withdraw within 15 days from MICP and POM their containers that have been cleared by BOC in order to free up space in these ports.
To address high utilization, BOC last March 7 released the interim guidelines for handling empty containers at POM and MICP, including a temporary prohibition to return empty boxes to the two terminals as well as the re-exportation of empty containers within a 30-day period.
However, implementation of the new order is still being considered, according to Guerrero.
Meanwhile, BOC deputy commissioner for Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group Atty. Edward James Dy Buco, in a presentation during the CCBI event on March 8, said eight shipping lines have deferred imposing the empty return surcharge, or its equivalent, in response to efforts of the government. – Text and photo by Roumina Pablo