PH ports handle 18.8% more cargo in 1H as restrictions ease

Tagbilaran port in Bohol. Photo courtesy of Philippine Ports Authority.
  • Cargo volumes handled by Philippine ports grew 18.79% in the first half of 2021 with some relaxation of COVID-19-related restrictions
  • Container traffic and shipcalls improved by 18.43% and 4.93%, respectively
  • Passenger traffic recorded a decline
  • Productivity at Manila ports, which handle a big chunk of the country’s total cargoes, was “within the normal limits” in June 2021

Cargo volumes handled by Philippine ports continued to improve, posting an 18.79% increase in the first half of the year, according to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

Volumes handled by ports under PPA’s jurisdiction reached 127.07 million metric tons (MT) in the first six months of the year from 106.97 million MT in the same period last year, according to PPA Port Operations and Services Department manager Atty. Hiyasmin Delos Santos in a presentation during the 165th Maritime Forum on July 29.

Container traffic jumped 18.43% to 3.625 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) from 3.061 million TEUs in the same period under review.

Shipcalls grew as well by 4.93% to 180,488 from 172,013 last year.

Delos Santos partly attributed the improvement to easing of COVID-19-related restrictions during the period.

Passenger traffic, however, continued to decline. For the first half of 2021, passenger traffic reached 10.453 million, down 42.86% from 18.294 million in the same period last year.

Productivity at Manila ports, which handle majority of the country’s shipments, “is within the normal limits” in June 2021 and hews with port operators’ commitments under their PPA contracts despite some pandemic limitations, Delos Santos said. She noted operators are continuously implementing measures to prevent port congestion.

Average yard utilization last June was 62.20% at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT), 56.21% at Manila South Harbor, and 45.20% at Manila North Harbor (North Port).

Average berth occupancy rates for the same month were 52.24% for MICT, 49.33% for South Harbor, and 25.34% for North Port.

Quay crane productivity for all three terminals was more than 20 moves per hour.

PPA general manager Jay Daniel Santiago early this year said cargo volumes were forecast to grow by 7% this year after suffering a double-digit decline in 2020 caused by the pandemic.

READ: PPA sees 7% cargo growth with easing of restrictions

Cargo volume is seen to increase to 246.7 million MT in 2021 from 230.44 million MT in 2020. For 2022, cargo volumes are forecast to inch up 1% to 249.17 million MT, and by 3% in 2023 to 256.29 million MT.

Santiago expects a 6% to 8% rise in container shipments this year. For 2022, container growth is anticipated to decelerate to 1% before accelerating to 3% in 2023.

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

In terms of passenger traffic, PPA sees a 1% to 2% improvement this year but this would still be “way below the pre-COVID-19 traffic of almost 84 million passengers annually,” Santiago said.

He noted the growth forecasts are consistent with assumptions of the government’s economic cluster.

He said PPA is “optimistically conservative” about its growth expectations since the increase in cargo volumes would depend on the easing of people’s movements, as this could improve domestic consumption, the main driver of the country’s trade. – Roumina Pablo