The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has issued a reminder that empty containers without a special permit to load (SPTL) may not enter the ports of Manila.
In a memorandum dated June 25, deputy commissioner of Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group Atty. Edward James Dy Buco reiterated to all BOC offices concerned, including Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI), International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), and Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL), the strict implementation of Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 13-2019.
CMO 13-2019, signed February 28 and released early March, provides interim guidelines for handling empty containers at the Port of Manila (POM) and Manila International Container Port (MICP), including temporary prohibition of returning empty boxes to the two terminals and the re-exportation of empty containers within a 30-day period.
BOC, in a statement, noted that CMO 13-2019 was issued “to arrest the problems of port congestion or high yard utilization due to unreturned empty containers and overstaying imports stored in the premises of ATI, POM and ICTSI at MICP.”
Under CMO 13-2019, the return of empty containers by importers, truckers, customs brokers, and other concerned port stakeholders to the port premises of POM and MICP is “temporarily disallowed until further notice from the BOC.”
Only empty containers covered by an SPTL, which can be secured from BOC’s Container Control Division and/or Piers Inspection Division, will be allowed entry to the designated areas of POM and MICP.
Under the order, empty containers covered by SPTL shall only be moved to the designated areas within 72 hours prior to the scheduled date and time of loading of the carrying vessel for re-exportation abroad.
Empty containers not covered by SPTL, as well as those with SPTL but arrive beyond the prescribed 72-hour period, shall not be allowed entrance to the designated areas of the two terminals.
BOC through CMO 13-2019 is also ordering shipping lines and/or their agents to coordinate with importers, truckers, customs brokers regarding the return of empty containers to container yards, storage areas, or depots.
Shipping lines and/or their agents under the new order are directed to specify in the container delivery receipt/order or such other similar documents the container yard or depot where the empty container/s will be returned by the importer, trucker, or customs broker.
Absence of the specifications means the importer, trucker, or customs broker shall return the empty container/s to any storage area of its own choice, and the cost of delivery and storage fees, if applicable, shall be at the expense of the shipping line and/or its agents.
BOC noted that the Container Depot Alliance of the Philippines (CDAP) had earlier warned that “another incident of port congestion might occur in Manila port if BOC will allow consignees to return empty containers directly to terminals.”
Last May, CDAP had asked importers and consignees to observe BOC’s rules on the return of empty containers to Manila port. The call came after CDAP member depots recorded lower utilization after the problem with port congestion was addressed early this year.
“Almost all returns of empty containers are now to the container port terminals and only withdrawals are being done in our CYs [container yards]. These direct returns of empties to the container terminals have greatly affected the financial viability and the very existence of CDAP off-dock depots,” CDAP president Roger Torres earlier said.
MICP district collector Atty. Erastus Sandino Austria had earlier clarified that BOC has been implementing CMO 13-2019, both in his port and in POM. – Roumina Pablo