Davao City, Philippines— Davao International Container Terminal (DICT) expects to surpass its 2017 target of 300,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) as volumes improve with the recovery of banana plantations from last year’s El Niño episode.
The Panabo, Davao Del Sur terminal has already handled 277,000 TEUs in the first 10 months of 2017, just 23,000 TEUs short of target. DICT is now looking at realizing 320,000 to 330,000 TEUs for 2017, given that the last two months of the year usually have high volumes, DICT vice president Bonifacio Licayan told PortCalls in a recent interview.
“This year looks like a banner year for bananas,” Licayan noted. Last year, banana plantations were heavily hit by El Niño, resulting in DICT’s total container throughput to slide 2.5% to 260,499 TEUs from 267,283 TEUs in 2015 and despite a 43% increase in vessel calls. About 85% of DICT’s exports are refrigerated shipments of bananas and pineapples, while the remaining are dry shipments. For imports, 99% are dry shipments while the rest are refrigerated shipments.
As of end-October this year, DICT already recorded 406 vessel calls, slightly higher than the 409 calls for the whole of 2016. Currently, there are nine weekly vessel calls connecting DICT to Asian countries, especially China, and to the Middle East. The terminal also accommodates ad-hoc vessel calls and occasional domestic carriers.
With higher banana exports, dry imports such as chemicals, fertilizers, and plastics have also increased, Licayan said, noting that 30% of Davao’s imports support banana and pineapple production.
In addition, Licayan said, they are expecting more imports of construction materials in view of the administration’s Build Build Build infrastructure program. He added that construction equipment has begun arriving in Davao from China with the increased construction activity in Davao City.
Additional volume will also be coming from a Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA)-accredited industrial zone located only 300 meters away from the terminal. Licayan said locators at the PEZA zone are required to export 70% of their products and manufactures, and these can be accommodated by DICT. Locators of the industrial park can also use the empty container depot (ECD) near DICT.
Berth 2, which had a P1.8-billion construction cost and started operations in August last year, has doubled DICT’s annual capacity to 700,000 TEUs.
Empty container depot expansion
Meanwhile, DICT expects to complete developing the additional four hectares at its eight-hectare empty container depot by February of next year, and start utilizing the extra space by March, specifically for dry shipments. Licayan noted that the aim is to make the depot a one-stop shop for traders and users of the port.
DICT is spending around P200 million on the additional four hectares, representing the first phase of its additional seven-hectare expansion. The development of the remaining three hectares will depend on how the depot will be used after work on the four-hectare additional space is completed.
Licayan noted that repositioning empty containers will be easier since the depot is around 400 meters away from DICT. Shippers likewise don’t need to return the empty containers all the way to Davao, and they can get empty containers from the depot to stuff their products in, spending less in transport cost to the port.
Licayan said another target is to handle laden containers in the depot as well so shippers without their own facilities can strip their containers at the facility.
The ECD also currently offers services such as checkering, pre-trip inspection, washing, temperature and ventilation setting, and maintenance and repair services (for both container and machinery).
At the same time, DICT has expanded its cold storage area with three more rooms to accommodate more bananas and pineapples.
Aside from facility improvements, DICT is improving its operations. Licayan said DICT upgraded its terminal operating system (TOS), Navis, to version 3.1 last December. He added that DICT is probably the first terminal in the country to successfully use iPads to encode the movement of rubber-tired gantry cranes.
To further enhance operations, Licayan said DICT is offering shipping lines, port users, and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) paperless transactions using Navis TOS. He noted that DICT has offered itself to BOC as the pilot port for a totally paperless system, and said the offer still stands with the new management of BOC.
He noted that Atty. Edward James Dy Buco, BOC deputy commissioner for Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group, has said that DICT will become a sub-office of BOC-Davao, which means the port will have its own plantilla of BOC personnel. Under the present situation, Licayan said customs personnel such as examiners still need to travel to Panabo from Davao-Sasa to inspect alerted shipments, and this situation causes delays. As of this writing, no BOC order on the assignation of DICT as a sub-office of BOC-Davao has been signed. – Text and photo by Roumina Pablo