Starting June 22, all container vessels calling North Port, the domestic terminal at Manila North Harbor, will have to berth at Terminal 1 and use quay cranes.
In a June 8 advisory to shipping lines and port users, Manila North Harbour Port, Inc. (MNHPI) general manager Romeo Salvador said the new policy complies with “government regulations on strict social/physical distancing while ensuring the unhampered delivery of port services.”
He added it is in line with the port modernization program agreed between the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and MNHPI. In 2010, MNHPI won a 25-year concession to modernize and operate North Port.
“The use of quay cranes is a standard global best practice for container terminals and the most socially distant form of terminal handling,” Salvador pointed out.
The arrangement means cargo owners will now have to pay cranage fees. Based on PPA Memorandum Circular No. 19-2018, the fees are P1,417 per loaded 20-footer and below, and P1,982 per container above 20-footer. For empty containers, cranage rate for a 20-footer and below is P1,191.50 and P1,535.50 for above 20-footer.
Cargo owners may pay directly to MNHPI.
Prior to the new policy, domestic shipping lines calling North Port had the option to use lift-on/lift-off (Lo-Lo) berths served by gangs or a group of cargo workers employed by stevedoring companies to work the ships.
Domestic shipping lines predominantly operate ships that are fitted with their own gears that do not necessarily require the service of quay cranes. Domestic shipping lines call ports that are still not equipped with quay cranes, thus, the use of ships with own gears.
MNHPI said priority of berthing in Terminal 1 will generally be based on compliance to the port’s berthing requirements/guidelines.
Roll-on/roll-off vessels, breakbulk vessels, and container vessels carrying significant breakbulk cargoes will be served at Terminal 2.
PortCalls sought comments from the Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA), most members of whom call North Port, and the Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines about the new policy but have yet to hear from them as of press time.
The new policy comes after MNHPI in late April reduced gangs servicing vessels also to comply with physical distancing requirements and because of reduced cargo volumes. This, however, translated to delays in berthing that lasted almost a week for some vessels. MNHPI recommended the use of quay cranes to remedy the situation, but shipping lines and cargo owners were not keen on the idea because while the use of quay cranes can improve productivity, fees costs more.
PLSA president Mark Matthew Parco earlier acknowledged that the use of quay cranes “can improve productivity and ease the port congestion” but the situation would compel shipping lines to pass on the cranage cost to customers.
Parco said shipping lines need to conserve cash so they would rather go for the lowest cost option, which in this case is use of LoLo berths.
Domestic shipping lines have been heavily affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, with cargo volumes dropping at 70%.
After community quarantines in the country are lifted, estimates point to cargo traffic being only 50-70% of pre-COVID-19 levels. – Roumina Pablo