Manila International Container Terminal is now handling more volumes compared to pre-pandemic levels
The terminal is averaging 3,000 truck transactions a day from 2,300 to 2,800 previously
Clients have been experiencing difficulty booking slots under the Terminal Appointment Booking System, resulting in shipment delays and additional costs
MICT has also seen a jump in the number of trucks arriving earlier than scheduled, affecting those showing up on time
Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) is now handling more volumes than during pre-pandemic levels, averaging 3,000 truck transactions a day from the previous 2,300 to 2,800, according to a port executive.
“We are actually busier than ever,” MICT management services and government affairs director Voltaire Wycoco said during a recent virtual forum organized by the Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc.
He noted the terminal is processing higher volumes than in 2019, the year it recorded its highest throughput.
For August 2021 alone, MICT handled 8.3% more volumes at 225,000 twenty-equivalent units (TEU) from 207,000 TEUs in the same month in 2019. Truck counts were also 4.5% higher at 90,000 compared to 86,000 for the same period in review.
Despite more truck transactions, MICT maintains operational efficiencies, mainly due to the organized arrival of trucks with the implementation of the Terminal Appointment Booking System (TABS), Wycoco said.
TABS is a government-approved system that requires port stakeholders to secure an online appointment before trucks can enter the container terminal to discharge and/or pick up cargo. It was piloted in October 2015 and fully implemented on March 16, 2016.
Wycoco said with TABS, truck gate-in up to last execution takes only 50 minutes on average, faster than the one and a half hours it took pre-TABS. Last execution to gate-out takes about 30 minutes as long as a Bureau of Customs (BOC) inspection is not required.
In the last few months, however, MICT users claimed to have been having issues with TABS, including difficulty booking slots, which they said can now take days to accomplish. Customs brokers said the situation has resulted in shipment delays and additional costs.
A customs broker during the online forum complained of experiencing booking slots for about three months now.
Another TABS issue is the jump in the number of early truck arrivals, affecting those that arrive at their appointed time. According to Wycoco, early arrivals increased 25% in September from an average of 14% in January.
There are some trucks, he said, that arrive as early as three days before their appointed schedule.
Wycoco acknowledged the entry of early arrivals cannot be prevented. Automatically adding slots is also out of the question: TABS slots are pre-determined by the Philippine Ports Authority under PPA Administrative Order No. 06-2018, which provides rules on the implementation of TABS.
Wycoco denied the port operator is selling TABS slots, as some allege, adding the matter is now being investigated. He also noted no changes have been introduced to TABS to make booking slots difficult.
Another issue, according to Wycoco, is that it takes truck drivers longer to get through the terminal gates.
MICT’s gates are automated and truck drivers can either scan their gate pass or use the biometrics to pass through, a process that should take just 70 seconds.
“For some reason we can’t explain,” Wycoco said truck drivers are now taking up to five minutes to enter the gates, triggering the need for manual intervention, and in the process delaying entry of trucks in queue and ultimately losing gains from implementing automated gates.
Wycoco said MICT management is working to stop the rise in number of early arrivals at the same time looking at other ways to address booking difficulty.
One of the proposed solutions is to allow clients to book as early as they want, but to activate slots only 12 hours before the actual slot time.
In addition, MICT management is working to make more transparent viewing of available slots, including sending notifications to clients once slots free up.
For early arrivals, a three-strike rule is proposed: a 15-day suspension of account for first offense, 30-day suspension for second offense, and six-month to a year’s suspension for third offense.
MICT management will also be re-training truck drivers soon on proper gate entry.
Meanwhile, Wycoco encourages more clients to book their TABS slots after getting their
Online Release System (OLRS) approval from BOC and not to wait for the gate pass,
which is not required to book a slot in TABS. By not waiting, they will have more time to
get their desired slots.
Based on August and September TABS data, only about 14% of clients book their slots immediately after securing their OLRS. He said it takes clients almost three days after receiving their OLRS approval from BOC to book their slots.
He said stakeholders may also want to take advantage of slower weekends and Monday mornings to book a slot. – Roumina Pablo