The transfers, which started on March 16, are part of a manifesto signed on March 15 by several government agencies, port operators and a group of international shipping lines in a bid to ease high utilization at Manila ports.
The Manifesto of Support for Government’s Efforts to Effectuate Efficient Utilization of Philippine Ports was signed by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Bureau of Customs (BOC), Association of International Shipping Lines, and port operators Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI) and International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI).
The manifesto noted the publication of a PPA notice which required cargo owners to transfer overstaying customs-cleared cargoes from Manila terminals to ICDs. The notice, published on March 1, gave cargo owners 15 days to comply from the date of publication.
Under the manifesto, failure to comply with the PPA directive will lead to the transfer—effectively starting March 16—of Customs-cleared containers that have stayed at the ports for more than 30 days (from discharge of cargo from the vessel) to designated inland container depots of ATI and ICTSI. The cost of transfer will be borne by the cargo owners, shippers, consignees, logistics operators, or customs brokers.
Aside from preventing containers from overstaying, ATI and ICTSI will, under the manifesto, regularly provide government with information on the health of their ports, as well as information on containers staying inside their terminals for at least 30 days since arriving.
International shipping lines, for their part, are required to promptly evacuate empty containers from the Philippines within the period prescribed by the BOC, either by regular ship calls or sweeper vessels.
BOC, meanwhile, will regularly dispose of seized or abandoned containers to maintain efficient utilization of Manila South Harbor and MICT.
Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero told PortCalls in a text message that a shipment will be declared abandoned if not claimed by a cargo owner after 30 days of payment of duties and taxes.
According to the manifesto, the imbalance of inbound and outgoing containers “has led to the exploitation of Philippine ports, such that various industry sectors use the space thereof for the storage of their containers.”
It added that “the fluctuation of market prices has triggered the unscrupulous practice of storing containers in Philippine ports until the time that withdrawal of goods will yield maximum profit.”
In a media briefing after the manifesto signing, PPA general manager Jay Daniel Santiago said a maximum period for allowing laden containers inside Manila ports ensures sustainability of terminals’ efficiencies.
Santiago noted certain exemptions to the 30-day maximum allowable period of stay inside the port, such as cargoes with pending cases with the BOC. If containers “do not have any problems, then there should be no reason why they should stay longer in the terminals beyond what is allowable,” he pointed out.
But even before the manifesto was signed, BOC, terminal operators, and shipping lines have carried out several initiatives to bring down utilization levels at Manila South Harbor and Manila International Container Terminal (MICT).
Guerrero said that as of March 15, yard utilization at Manila South Harbor was at 65% and at MICT 75%. On March 8, Guerrero also announced that the two terminals were no longer congested, after experiencing months of high utilization.
ICTSI senior vice president and global corporate head Christian Gonzalez, during the manifesto signing, said since PPA published the March 1 notice, daily pull-outs from MICT grew 17% daily.
For South Harbor, imports pull-outs increased by 14% daily.
“Signing this manifesto is one thing, doing and implementing it is another, and going beyond it will equally spell good business relationships within the country… This is not for show. This is for real,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, who witnessed the manifesto signing, said in a keynote speech.
The transport chief said that aside from the manifesto, he has also revived previous instructions to PPA to review systems and policies, the revisit geared towards achieving “cost efficiency and operations efficiency” in Philippine ports. – Text and photo by Roumina Pablo