Home » Breaking News, Customs & Trade, Exclusives, Maritime, Ports/Terminals » Local shipping lines seek waiver of port charges amid COVID-19 woes

Quarantine restrictions are hampering operations of the domestic shipping industry, with carriers now appealing for government intervention.

The Philippine Inter-island Shipping Association (PISA), in a letter dated March 30 addressed to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, said the industry is encountering “one challenge after another in ensuring unhampered delivery of goods and other necessities to the public.”

The entire Luzon and several areas in the Visayas and Mindanao are under community quarantines to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In Luzon, the enhanced community quarantine has been extended by President Rodrigo Duterte until April 30.

While movement of cargoes should be unhampered, other restrictions have affected operations of cargo owners and shippers and other service providers, PISA executive director Atty. Pedro Aguilar said in the letter.

Passenger ships are also not allowed into almost all ports, he added.

The association has requested the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), via email on March 18, to waive port charges for ships on anchor since the quarantine period and to suspend the two-day storage period for domestic cargoes.

“But no concrete action has been done to date,” said Aguilar.

PISA members also requested PPA to waive usage fees for vessels that remain berthed longer “owing to slow port operations due to skeletal force plus stringent quarantine inspections.”

In addition, the group is asking to forgo storage charges “which most cargo owners/consignees do not want to pay citing difficulty in the release, delivery, receipt and movement of cargoes due to the enhanced quarantine.”

Aguilar explained that some consignees have ceased to operate or can’t immediately retrieve their cargoes owing to boundary restrictions.

To assist them, he said shipping lines (SLs) “were constrained to pay for these storage fees and left with no choice but to hustle these containers to their CYs [container yards] to facilitate release.”

“However, the CYs are already congested and SLs can no longer bear storage costs which should be borne by the cargo owners, not to mention additional hustling costs,” Aguilar said.

He said these port fees are “time-bound” charges unnecessarily incurred due to restricted transport, passenger, and manpower moves.

“For the duration of the emergency-crisis, we hope and pray for government to extend any such assistance to domestic shipping by waiving port charges and suspending the 2-day max storage period for domestic cargoes,” he continued.

Aguilar said waiving of port charges and suspension of the maximum storage period “will greatly help shipping operators, manufacturers, cargo owners and consignees not only in Manila, Luzon but also at the outports.”

PISA is an umbrella organization representing various sectors in the domestic shipping industry, including liners, tankers, roll-on/roll-off, lighterage, harbor tugs, and other marine-related companies such as those in shipbuilding and ship repair, among others. – Roumina Pablo

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