CTAP, CCBI urge Marcos to immediately enforce container monitoring system

CTAP, CCBI urge Marcos to immediately enforce container monitoring system
Image by Wolfgang Schröpfer from Pixabay
  • The Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines and Chamber of Customs Brokers Inc. are urging President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to immediately enforce the Philippine Ports Authority’s container registry and monitoring system
  • They said it is a swift solution to the issues of container deposit and return of empty boxes
  • CTAP and CCBI echoed a PPA statement that the system is “primarily intended to remedy congestion in ports, ease traffic at access roads and alleviate storage problems at the ports”

The Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines (CTAP) and Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI) urged President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to immediately implement the Philippine Ports Authority’s container registry and monitoring system, saying it will address issues on container deposit and return of empty boxes.

In an open letter published on a newspaper on February 9, CTAP and CCBI asked Marcos “for swift action to stop the imposition of container deposits and/or immediately implement TOP-CRMS to properly address the issue of container deposits and mismanagement of empty containers…”

TOP-CRMS, or Trusted Operator Program-Container Registry and Monitoring System, is PPA’s proposed electronic system to register and monitor the movement of foreign containers entering and leaving PPA ports. Under PPA Administrative Order No. 04-2021, foreign containers are required to register with TOP-CRMS and to secure a container insurance policy.

The open letter was signed by representatives of CCBI, CTAP and 14 of its member organizations, as well as Aksyon Agad Samahan ng mga Personeros Personeras. The groups noted they have “literally passed through the proverbial eye of the needle in our crusade and fight to stop the imposition of the unregulated charges of international shipping lines.

“But we know that the dawn of resurrection is at hand, we know that your administration will put to rest our long struggle to end the imposition of the international liners’ unregulated charges in line with your clarion call to lower the cost of logistics in our country.”

PPA earlier said TOP-CRMS is its solution to the long-standing issue on the return of container deposits and the management of return of foreign empty boxes.

The PPA Board recently placed on indefinite hold the TOP-CRMS implementation following calls from various stakeholders and business groups to scrap the system.

Last month, 17 stakeholders and business groups submitted an open letter to Marcos asking him to immediately scrap AO 04-2021, which they said “threatens to cripple the transport and logistics industries and the national economy as a whole.”

The petitioners estimate that the direct financial cost alone from the additional insurance, transaction, and trucking fees required by TOP-CRMS will lead to an almost 50% increase in the cost of importing goods or, in real terms, an additional annual import cost estimated to be at least P35 billion.

They added that the system will worsen inflation, will not solve port congestion, and is a “clear usurpation of Customs function.”

In their Feb 9 open letter, CCBI, CTAP and Aksyon Agad echoed PPA’s statement that TOP-CRMS is “primarily intended to remedy congestion in ports, ease traffic at access roads and alleviate storage problems at the ports through the provision of shared facility for empty containers by monitoring the utilization and movement of all foreign-owned containers while they are in the Philippines.”

The groups added that TOP-CRMS will “address the problems of unreturned container deposits, exorbitant costs charged by the shipping lines, and the difficulty in returning empty containers to the shipping lines.”

They said TOP-CRMS’ P980 fee for container monitoring and the provisioning of insurance “in lieu of the more costly container deposit fees (P15,000 to P30,000)” will help reduce the cost of transporting goods.

PPA general manager Jay Daniel Santiago earlier acknowledged that PPA cannot guarantee the charging of container deposits by foreign shipping lines will stop if the container insurance requirement is in place. No government agency has jurisdiction over foreign shipping lines and their charges.

Under the proposed implementing operational guidelines of AO 04-2021, forwarders, customs brokers, importers, and consignees should secure container insurance of P980 plus VAT per container through TOP-CRMS as required for container discharge.

Moreover, all empty boxes for re-export are required to be endorsed to a PPA-designated staging facility at least 72 hours before departure and this entails a service fee of P3,520 plus VAT per container beyond the first three days.

CCBI, CTAP and Aksyon Agad noted that under the proposed operating guidelines, shipping lines/shipping agents will shoulder P3,520, while “this fee is already being charged as destination fee paid in advance by the consignee to the shipping lines for the return of empty containers.”

The groups also said TOP-CRMS can help in the anti-smuggling drive because it can provide data on where the cargo is unloaded, a statement that mirrors an earlier claim by PPA. The port authority said data on container movement generated by TOP-CRMS can be provided to BOC.

Some stakeholders, however, believe TOP-CRMS is a duplication of BOC’s Electronic Tracking of Containerized Cargo (E-TRACC) System, a claim refuted by CCBI, CTAP and Aksyon Agad and PPA, too. E-TRACC, CCBI, CTAP and Aksyon Agad said, only covers containers bound for delivery to customs bonded warehouses, economic zones, and reefer containers; there is no longer visibility when empty containers are returned to container yards and are re-exported.

AO 04-2021 covers all ports under PPA’s jurisdiction but implementation was initially planned for Manila International Container Terminal and Manila South Harbor, which handle the bulk of foreign cargoes in the country.

Further, CCBI, CTAP and Aksyon Agad echoed PPA’s statement that BOC supports TOP-CRMS.

The groups allayed concerns that the system will manage the assignment of a driver to a specific truck and dispatch the same to fulfil a work order. They said TOP-CRMS will not assign transactions to truckers and other service providers and that the decision as to which service provider to use will remain with importers and consignees.

“The TOP-CRMS will just know the parties accountable for the transport of the containers,” they reasoned.

Further, the groups said physical tags will no longer be installed in containers inside and outside the ports because a tablet that will be used for monitoring will instead be provided to truck drivers.

Under the proposed guidelines, PPA-accredited trucking companies will be responsible for ensuring that each tablet is functioning, fully charged prior to any registered trip, or plugged in to a power source while conveying a container.

Not the same as CLA

The groups said TOP-CRMS is different from Container Ledger Account (CLA), which they described as “just another form of deposit.”

CLA is an online system being marketed as an alternative solution to container deposit management between the shipping line and consignee/agent. The system began pilot-testing in the Philippines in December 2021 and currently has 350 subscribers and 14 shipping line users.

Stakeholders opposed to TOP-CRMS said CLA solves complaints of container refunds not being returned expeditiously, thus making TOP-CRMS unnecessary. – Roumina Pablo