Cargo volume handled by Philippine ports in the first seven months of the year jumped 20.27% year-on-year
Volume was also 2.1% higher compared to pre-pandemic levels
PPA, however, downgraded its 2021 forecast to 5% growth in all operational areas from its March forecast of 7% increase in cargo volume and 6% to 8% rise in containers
Cargo volumes are seen to further grow in the fourth quarter as the holiday season approaches, and early next year due to heightened activities in China attendant to the Chinese New Year
The coming months will remain challenging as pandemic restrictions continue to impact port operations and implementation of port projects
Philippine ports saw double-digit growth in cargo volumes for the first seven months of the year, rising 20.27% to 157.435 million metric tons from 130.903 million MT year-on-year, according to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
The latest cargo volume is also 2.1% higher than the pre-pandemic 154.335 million MT recorded in the same period in 2019, PPA general manager Jay Daniel Santiago said in a virtual press briefing on September 13. Other operational volumes this year versus last are, however, still below pre-pandemic levels.
For the full year 2021, the PPA downscaled its projection, with all operational areas seen growing at 5% from last March’s projection of 7% increase in cargo volume and 6% to 8% growth for containers. The reduced forecast is based on National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) macroeconomic estimates, PPA noted. Just last August, the Development Budget Coordination Committee, of which NEDA is a member, revised downward the country’s growth assumption for this year to 4% to 5% from 6% to 7% due to stricter quarantine restrictions re-imposed in various areas to address heightened risks from the COVID-19 Delta variant.
From January to July 2021, foreign cargoes jumped 21.81% to 94.888 million MT from 77.895 million MT year-on-year.
Domestic cargoes grew 18% to 62.546 million MT from 53.007 million MT.
Santiago said they anticipate a further increase in cargo volumes in the fourth quarter as the holiday season approaches, as well as early next year due to heightened activities in China attendant to the Chinese New Year.
Container traffic rose by 15.35% to 4.228 million twenty-foot equivalent units in the first seven months of 2021 from 3.665 million TEUs in the same period last year. The latest volume is, however, 7.06% less than the pre-pandemic 4.549 million TEUs recorded in the same period in 2019.
Domestic container traffic improved 10.41% to 1.66 million TEUs from 1.503 million TEUs while foreign containers were 18.79% higher at 2.568 million TEUs from 2.162 million TEUs.
Import containers accelerated 19.73% to 1.289 million TEUs from 1.076 million TEUs while exports rose 17.85% to 1.279 million TEUs from 1.085 million TEUs.
Shipcalls increased 5.56% to 209,120 vessels in the first seven months of the year from 198,111 vessels year-on-year but down 27.39% vis-a-vis 287,998 vessels in the same period in 2019.
Passenger traffic dropped 37.08% to 12.179 million this year from 19.356 million last year, and sank by 76.33% from 51.461 million in 2019.
PPA’s net income grew 4.47% to P5.505 billion in January to July 2021 from P5.269 billion in the same period last year. But this is 18.32% lower than the P6.739 billion recorded in the same period in 2019.
For full-year 2021, PPA’s cargo throughput target is 244,001 million MT, higher than the 243,989 million MT posted in 2020.
For containerized cargoes, the target is 7.09 million TEUs from 6.757 million TEUs in 2020.
The net income goal for 2021 is P6.64 billion from the P6.324 billion in 2020.
Santiago said the coming months will remain challenging as pandemic restrictions continue to hamper port operations and implementation of port projects.
Despite the challenge, Santiago said they expect to finish up to 120 more projects before the end of the current administration’s term. Since 2016, PPA and mother agency Department of Transportation have completed 451 port projects.
On port operations, Santiago said the utilization of Manila terminals is normal at between 60% and 67%. The backlog of ships because of the temporary stoppage of operations at ports due to two typhoons was addressed over the weekend, he added.
He noted the anticipated upsurge in the utilization of Philippine ports following the opening of the Ningbo-Zhoushan Port’s Meishan terminal did not materialize as the release of vessels from the China terminal was staggered. The Chinese terminal was closed for two weeks in early August due to a rise in COVID cases. China is the country’s leading source of imports.
Still, Santiago reiterated calls to stakeholders “to continue on with the efforts to book their shipments early” and withdraw shipments before the free storage period expires to avoid congestion, especially during the holidays. – Roumina Pablo