International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) has bared development plans for Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) aimed at further improving services at its flagship port.
For one, the port operator is investing heavily in quay cranes to raise port productivity and lessen the stay of vessels, ICTSI Asia Pacific commercial director Justin Tolentino said in a presentation during the Ease of Doing Business at MICP (Manila International Container Port) forum recently organized by PortCalls and Asia Customs &Trade, an online portal on customs and trade developments affecting global trade and customs compliance in Asia.
In line with this, MICT last June took delivery of two neo-Panamax quay cranes and a post-Panamax quay crane, increasing its current fleet of cranes to 16. Two more quay cranes are expected to arrive in April next year.
Tolentino said ICTSI has also decided to buy its own dredging equipment “to keep up with the demand” and maintain a 13.5-meter draft.
On the yard side, the port operator intends to bring in eight rubber-tired gantry (RTG) cranes in October and eight more come August or September next year “to be able to improve the truck turn times at the terminal.”
Intra-terminal transfers now possible
Moreover, Tolentino said MICT and North Port are now able to do “intra-terminal transfers” of international cargo bound for domestic ports and domestic cargoes bound for the international market, largely through a link between the two terminals, eliminating the need to go outside of the port.
This ensued after ICTSI in September last year acquired a 34.83% stake in domestic port operator Manila North Harbour Port, Inc. (MNHPI), which owns the 25-year concession to modernize and operate Manila North Harbor, or North Port, for P1.75 billion.
Tolentino said that because of this, “we could make a connection between the two (terminals),” which are near each other.
He added that with this setup, “the cost of moving these boxes will be significantly less than what the market is dictating right now.”
ICTSI started the intra-terminal transfers last June, currently handling only domestic cargo from North Port bound as export to MICT, Tolentino told PortCalls on the sidelines of the event. Cargoes transferred from North Port to MICT are handled by the North Port’s internal trucks, while cargoes for transfer from MICT to North Port will be handled by the international terminals’ internal trucks.
Tolentino said shippers availing of the intra-terminal transfer will still have to go through the usual process for transferring. 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.
Asked if there’s volume for intra-terminal transfers, Tolentino said there is.
ICTSI is also converting a warehouse “that hasn’t been used much” into an empty container depot (ECD), another project it is carrying out for MICT. In June 2014, ICTSI was forced to shut down its ECD to give more space for laden containers, which was a direct consequence of the Manila daytime truck ban during that time that resulted in congestion inside Manila terminals.
Tolentino said that opening an ECD is in response to stakeholders’ clamor for more space for empty containers, the lack of space being a long-standing issue increasingly highlighted in recent months.
He said ICTSI has been “listening to the market” and is trying to “help alleviate some of the concerns of our trucker friends and shippers.”
The ECD will have 300 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) ground slots, or a capacity of about 1,700 TEUs if boxes are stacked six containers high. The ECD will also have provisions for the maintenance and repair of boxes.
Additionally, ICTSI is looking at what to do with its 16,400-square-meter logistics center currently in use as container storage. Tolentino said one option is to convert it into a cold storage “to fulfil the cold chain requirements” of the market. He noted, however, that “whatever that product is, it’s not going to contribute to the traffic” as “that’s one of our biggest concerns.”
Aside from infrastructure and equipment, ICTSI has also introduced new systems to benefit MICT users.
ICTSI recently deployed its automated gate system “to make truck transactions faster in the terminal,” according to a presentation made during the same event by MICT’s IT systems and services director Reynaldo Mark Cruz, Jr.
He said the port operator is doing away with manual transactions “to try to make it convenient for drivers.”
MICT customer relations manager Erika Ambrosio said that aside from renovating its billing lounge, the port operator has also implemented a new cashiering service to improve transaction time when paying port charges.
Ambrosio noted that prior to this, “one of the huge concerns back then was long waiting lines” when clients had to wait for two to three hours to do transactions. After rolling out the new cashiering service, transaction waiting time has gone down to 19 minutes, which has further been cut down to just 5 minutes.
ICTSI has also partnered with Union Bank to put up a branch inside MICT to facilitate payment services.
Another project, rolled out last April, is the MICT Rewards Recognition Program, which hands out cash prizes and sacks of rice to customs brokers with the highest Terminal Appointment Booking System (TABS) transactions and to truckers with the highest truck transactions at the port.
Ambrosio said the initiative will be further enhanced to include importers and exporters, as the port operator aims to launch a loyalty program by 2019. – Roumina Pablo