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PH container volume projected to grow up to 8% in 2021

  • Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) forecasts a 6-8% growth in container volumes this year after declining 14.2% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Growth is seen to slow to 1% in 2022 before the pace picks up 3% in 2023
  • PPA general manager Jay Daniel Santiago earlier said PPA is “optimistically conservative” about cargo volumes for this year until 2023 with the expected easing of COVID-19 restrictions

Philippine container volumes will grow 6% to 8% this year after declining 14.2% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Jay Daniel Santiago.

For 2022, container growth is anticipated to slow to 1%, while in 2023, it should accelerate to 3%, Santiago told PortCalls.

In 2020, container traffic handled by ports under PPA’s jurisdiction reached 6.75 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), lower than the 7.87 million TEUs recorded in 2019.

Santiago noted the forecasts for 2022 and 2023 for containers are the same as those for cargo volumes, which are seen to grow by 1% in 2022 and 3% in 2023. For 2021, PPA expects cargo volumes to improve by 7% after declining 13.5% in 2020.

PPA’s forecast for 2021 is slightly lower than that of the Association of International Shipping Lines’ (AISL) 10% growth estimate. AISL president Patrick Ronas earlier told PortCalls cargo figures for the Philippines this year are expected to be better compared to last year as long as no “hard lockdowns” are implemented again.

In a recent virtual press briefing, Santiago said PPA is “optimistically conservative” about cargo volumes for this year until 2023, with expectations for this year and the next hinged on the continued easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

Cargo volume is forecast to rise to 246.7 million metric tons (mt) in 2021 from 230.44 million mt in 2020. For 2022 and 2023, volumes are forecast to hit 249.17 million mt and 256.29 million mt, respectively.

In terms of passenger traffic, PPA projects a 1% to 2% improvement this year after a 70% decline in 2020 to 24.79 million.

For 2021, passenger traffic is seen rising to 25.84 million, which Santiago noted is “way below the pre-COVID-19 traffic of almost 84 million passengers annually.”

For 2022, passenger traffic could hit 26.10 million, and for 2023, 26.79 million.

Santiago said the growth forecasts are consistent with assumptions of the government’s economic cluster.

Cargo volume sank 13.5% in 2020, with the biggest contraction recorded in Manila ports, which account for 85% of the country’s total volumes.

Santiago noted volumes in South Luzon, the Visayas, and Southern Mindanao posted minimal decreases, while Northern Mindanao recorded a positive deviation.

“This is a very good indication that the economy is doing just fine and can easily rebound to pre-COVID-19 levels once we roll out our vaccination program as such could get back investor confidence in our supply chain.”

Santiago is hopeful that with the government’s vaccination program having started, movements of people would be eased and consumption would increase.

PPA last year said it expected shipcalls and cargo volumes to decline amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has significantly affected global and domestic trade, restricted movements of goods and people, and caused economic slowdowns worldwide. Ports in the Philippines remained operational even during lockdown periods and movement of cargoes was mostly unhampered.

Preliminary data from PPA’s website showed foreign and domestic cargoes, container traffic, shipcalls, passenger volume, and roll-on/roll-off traffic all recorded declines last year. – Roumina Pablo

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