Manila North Harbour revamp 25% ahead of schedule

Once modernized, North Harbour can handle around 3.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually. Photo courtesy of Manila North Harbour Port, Inc.
Once modernized, North Harbour can handle around 3.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually. Photo courtesy of Manila North Harbour Port, Inc.
Once modernized, North Harbour can handle around 3.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units annually. Photo courtesy of Manila North Harbour Port, Inc.

Port operator Manila North Harbour Port, Inc. (MNHPI) is infusing almost P2 billion this year to complete Phase 1 of Manila North Harbour’s modernization, according to chief executive officer Richard Barclay.

In an interview with PortCalls, Barclay said MNHPI is 24.6% ahead of the scheduled development of Phase 1. The last part of the development includes extending the front wharf from Pier 16 to Pier 14 and reclaiming Slip 15. The front wharf will be completed by December of this year while the container yard will be operational by July 2017.

The project will add another 200 meters to North Harbour’s quay length and increase the depth to 13 meters.

Barclay estimated Phase 1’s total cost to be P10 billion.

MNHPI holds a 25-year contract to develop, manage, operate, and maintain Manila North Harbour.

Barclay said MNHPI already started some work for Phase 2 even while waiting for Philippine Ports Authority’s approval to commence. Phase 2 includes the expansion of the container yard and the continuous quay length. After Piers 14 and 16, MNHPI will also develop the other piers to give North Harbour 1.7 kilometers of continuous quay length in all. This will enable the port to accommodate 10 vessels of 140 meters in length at one time. Domestic vessels currently range from 95 meters up to 150 meters long.

The MNHPI executive said that once the modernization program is completed, the total expenditure might reach almost P20 billion, higher than the contract price of P14 billion, due to unforeseen works. For example, MNHPI had to undertake reconstruction work as the quay length, which they were told was container-ready, turned out to be not so.

Once modernized, North Harbour can handle around 3.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually.

In 2015, North Harbour serviced 1.1 million TEUs and 1.7 million metric tons of breakbulk cargoes, both 9% higher than the recorded volume in 2014. Barclay traced the increase mainly to economic growth which ushered in more cargoes. Additionally, domestic lines were more open to using ship-to-shore (STS) cranes, which hiked productivity.

For the first five months of 2016, Barclay said North Harbour handled 490,000 TEUs, or within the target. For the full year, projected volume is 1.19 million TEUs, a 6% increase from the 2015 volume. For breakbulk, MNHPI sees volumes remaining flat at 1.7 million metric tons but expects huge volumes for rolling cargoes. Barclay opined that the flat growth for breakbulk cargoes might be because shippers are opting to use containers.

More shipping lines are also calling at the port with the addition of Seaborne Shipping Lines, Inc. and Fiesta Cargo and Logistics, Inc. This has increased the number of regular callers to 12 liners. The port also caters to trampers.

In terms of equipment, an order for two STS cranes and seven rubber-tired gantry cranes (RTG) has been finalized for delivery by the second quarter of 2017. With the acquisition, North Harbour’s STS cranes will increase to eight and RTGs to 27.

The operator also ordered eight forklifts with a capacity of 14 tons and below, three empty container handlers, eight roll-on/roll-off tractors, 20 yard tractors, and 18 trailers. Barclay noted that MNHPI acquires equipment based on demand.

Launch of new TOS

Meanwhile, the port operator also hopes to start live implementation of its new terminal operating system (TOS), Navis SPARCS N4, by October or November this year. Barclay said the terminal is currently conducting training for both terminal equipment operators and shipping lines.

Once the new TOS is fully operational, he said efficiency in vessel planning is seen to improve which, in turn, will enhance productivity, yard operations, and container management. The new TOS will also reduce manual decoding for improved accuracy of documentation. North Harbour is the first domestic terminal in the world to implement N4, Barclay noted.

But while waiting for Navis N4, the MNHPI executive said the port is already hitting 45 berth moves per hour, and for one shipping line, had even hit 50 berth moves per hour a few times. This is because when a ship berths, all outbound cargoes are already at the port and MNHPI has planned the moves. The terminal can also discharge and load at the same time because all containers from the shipping lines come in standard units. Barclay noted that some liners still have old boxes that need to be moved by slings, and this takes time. Domestic liners are, however, already replacing these boxes.

With ongoing refurbishment at North Harbour, Barclay said the incoming administration should focus on mass transportation and road infrastructure development “because no matter how we expand the port capacity, without proper road networks, port congestion is inevitable.”

Dedicated road for ports

Barclay said MNHPI will revive its proposal to construct an elevated highway to the port.

MNHPI earlier submitted this proposal to the transport secretary, who referred it to the Toll Regulatory Board; the proposal did not prosper. He said the elevated highway will only take two years to build and will bring massive savings to stakeholders, as their trucks will no longer have to share the roads with ordinary vehicles. He added that the Terminal Appointment Booking System being implemented in Manila’s two international terminals is a good concept, but it will be more efficient if a dedicated road for terminals is in place.

Barclay also hopes the next administration will encourage the upgrade of other ports in the country as well.

“A lot of the domestic lines, when they get to the other ports, they have to queue as well,” he said. Domestic liners usually lose the advantage they have at Manila ports when they dock at other ports in the country due to the lack of equipment and facilities. This is the reason they still buy self-sustaining vessels that sacrifice space but allows them to dock at other ports.

Barclay said MNHPI’s general outlook for this year is positive, noting that the country has already shown that its growth is sustainable, and not just “quick growth.” He expressed hopes the sustained and improving growth will translate to more volumes for ports as well. – Roumina Pablo