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PH container backlog to take months to clear even with express truck lanes

ID-100248606The express truck lanes opened on certain streets in Manila will not immediately clear the massive container congestion caused by the Manila daytime truck ban.

On May 31, the Manila Traffic and Parking Bureau (MTPB) opened 24/7 express trade lanes in and out of Manila ports via Roxas Boulevard using the following route: Radial 10 (R-10), C3 Road, 5th Avenue, Bonifacio and Balintawak to North Luzon Expressway and vice-versa.

As of press time, the MTPB has yet to formalize the policy via a memo although advisories for trucks to use the designated express lanes’ innermost lanes can now be seen around Manila.

Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines (CTAP) president Ruperto Bayocot told PortCalls in a text message the express lanes are helping to “ease the (container) backlog” but that it will take three to six months “to normalize the situation” – and this is assuming there are no other problems encountered along the way such as road reblocking, typhoons, and public holidays.

As is it, Bayocot is worried about the slow road works on inner lanes of Gate 6 at the port area. He said the bigger problem would be when the outer lane is blocked, which means “no trucks will be able to exit on Gate 6.”

Even if the situation normalizes, Bayocot said the trucking fees will remain the same but noted truck operators charging beyond than the average 50% increase earlier authorized by CTAP “should reduce their rate.”

After the Manila daytime truck ban implementation in late February, some cargo owners have complained of being billed fees more than those suggested by CTAP.

Teodorico Gervacio, president of the Integrated North Harbor Truckers Association, said the express trade lanes would help “in a way” but also believes the situation will only normalize in two to three months “if there are no (other) restrictions”.

Right now entry into and exit out of Manila, he told PortCalls, “is still a problem” due to heavy night time traffic, except when one is northbound as the cities of Navotas and Caloocan have already deferred implementing their own truck ban policies.

The MTPB decision to open express truck lanes comes on the heel of massive pressure from the business community for government to stem the negative effects of the Manila daytime truck ban.

The ban has caused massive container congestion at the ports, with stakeholders up in arms over higher costs due to restricted movement of trucks and much delayed shipment deliveries.

One of the proposals of the business community was precisely for an express lane for trucks.

Since the truck ban’s implementation, truck operators have increased their rates by at least 50%; some international shipping lines have skipped calls to Manila ports; ports’ utilization has gone up considerably; the Bureau of Customs saw reduced collections to the tune of P100 million to P150 million a day; and the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) shuttered its empty container depot (ECD) beginning June 1.

Empties have particularly piled up because during the allowable operating window of 10am-5pm and 10pm-5am, trucks carrying empties may ply Manila streets on their way out of the city but not on their way in.

A Citigroup report on the truck ban in March noted that the measure cost the country from P61.2 billion to P320 billion in losses and would hinder gross domestic product growth by 1-5%.

Bayocot said truckers have yet to feel the impact of MICT’s ECD shutdown as “trucks are (for now) concentrating on the withdrawal and delivery (of cargoes)”.

The closure of the ECD is expected to affect those carriers and empty returns diverted to other container yards which are congested.

MICT said the freed-up ECD area will rejoin the main terminal so that there is more space for laden containers.

According to the MICT website, the ECD covers 3.3 hectares and has a capacity for 4,836 twenty-equivalent units using eight-tier stacking. — Roumina Pablo

Image courtesy of joesive47 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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