ICTSI confident purchase of MNHPI shares to clear PCC

at the North Harbor.
Cranes at the Manila North Harbor. Photo courtesy of the Manila North Harbour Port, Inc.

International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) is confident its acquisition of 50% shares in Manila North Harbour Port, Inc. (MNHPI), operator of domestic terminal North Harbor, will be approved by the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), ICTSI senior vice president and regional head of Asia Pacific and Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) Christian Gonzalez told PortCalls in a chance interview on September 12.

ICTSI early this month purchased Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc’s (HCPTI) 15.17% share in MNHPI, increasing ICTSI’s stake in MNHPI to 50%. In September 2017, ICTSI bought 34.83% of Petron Corp’s shares in MNHPI.

An entity that has exceeded the 35% threshold for acquisition of voting shares in a non-corporate entity is required to notify the PCC.

MNHPI has a 25-year concession to modernize and operate North Harbor under a Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) contract.

Gonzalez said they are “very confident” they can prove the MNHPI buy-in will drive down costs for consumers, particularly with intra-terminal transfer of containers ICTSI is now implementing between the North Harbor and MICT.

Gonzalez explained import and export cargoes handled at MICT are now transferred to and from North Harbor using a PPA connector road linking the international and domestic terminals.

He said the intra-terminal arrangement is cheaper and creates less traffic and uncertainty compared to when trucks–prior to the buy-in of ICTSI into MNHPI–used public roads to transfer cargoes between MICT and North Harbor.

Using the PPA connector road, MICT and North Harbor are just one-kilometer apart in contrast to almost four kilometres apart using public roads that are almost always congested.

In a presentation during a recent PortCalls-organized forum, ICTSI Asia Pacific commercial director Justin Tolentino said cargoes transferred from North Harbor to MICT are handled by North Harbor’s own trucks, and cargoes from MICT to North Harbor by the international terminal’s trucks.

Tolentino noted shippers availing of the intra-terminal transfer will still have to go through the usual process for transfers. However, he noted that “instead of the domestic shipper calling an outside truck and having to go through R10, Del Pan, and South Access road,” their cargo can be transferred faster through the link between the two terminals.

North Harbor stays domestic; No TABS
Meanwhile, ICTSI has no plan to secure authority from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to handle foreign cargoes for North Harbor, Gonzalez said.

In 2016, BOC released an order allowing MNHPI to handle foreign cargoes at North Harbor, which is a sub-port of the customs bureau. The order, however, was suspended in the same year when a new customs commissioner took over.

Also asked if MNHPI will implement the Terminal Appointment Booking System (TABS)—a web-based booking system for trucks going to and coming out of the port that is being implemented at Manila’s two international terminals—at North Harbor, Gonzalez said no.

He added, however, that “we’ll implement something different based on whatever our customers feel the need is.”

“Remember there’s no customs clearance there (North Harbor) so truck traffic in North Harbor is very, very widely and properly spread over the seven days of the week. Even Sundays [are] very busy on the landside unlike [in the] international terminals where everything is Wednesday to Friday, right?” Gonzalez explained.

North Harbor, also known as North Port, is a 52.5-hectare multipurpose terminal that caters to domestic containerized and general cargoes, as well as passengers. With the MNHPI acquisition, ICTSI will have interests in both international and domestic port operations in Manila. ICTSI operates and develops ports around the world, with MICT as its flagship operation. Its subsidiaries in the Philippines also operate ports in Subic, Misamis Oriental, Davao del Norte, and General Santos City. – Roumina Pablo