Shippers are starting to withdraw overstaying containers at Manila’s international container terminals, leading to a drop in yard utilization to 75% on April 4 from 96-98% on April 1, said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) in a joint statement.
“The utilization of the ports is now approximately at 75%. The PPA is happy about this. There is now an effort (by) shippers and consignees to withdraw their cargoes. This helps in decongesting the ports,” Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said, referring to both the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) and Manila South Harbor.
“This is an improvement on our earlier appeal to shippers and consignees to withdraw or release their shipments. We are targeting 60% approximately to achieve an ideal operation,” Tugade added.
The lower yard utilization is the “result of appeals we have made and hopefully will be sustained through the implementation of JAO (Joint Administrative Order) 20-01. Cargo withdrawals have been consistent so far,” PPA general manager Atty. Jay Daniel Santiago said.
The PPA chief assured shippers and consignees withdrawing containers from MICT that transactions will be handled efficiently.
“The Bureau of Customs [BOC], the PPA and terminal operators ICTSI [International Container Terminal Services, Inc.] and ATI [Asian Terminals Inc.], have all been working together to help the consignees facilitate their transactions expeditiously,” he said.
DOTr and PPA earlier called on importers and consignees to withdraw their overstaying containers to decongest Manila ports, particularly MICT, which on March 27 reported that more than 7,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) have been at the terminal for more than 30 days.
For the period March 1 to March 26, cleared containers sitting at the MICT added up to 8,201, of which over 850 TEUs are refrigerated containers. There are also 21,387 TEUs, over 1,400 TEUs of which are reefers, waiting for clearance and release after being discharged since March 1.
PPA on March 27 issued Memorandum Circular No. 11-2020 temporarily authorizing Manila North Harbor to be the designated port for the transfer of overstaying foreign containers from MICT that have been cleared for delivery/withdrawal, and subject to approval of BOC for import containers.
BOC on April 3 said 472 overstaying and abandoned containers at MICT have already been transferred to the depot of Pacific Roadlink Logistics, Inc., 925 containers to the domestic terminal Manila North Harbor, and 78 containers to the Laguna Gateway Inland Container Terminal.
BOC said that while the transfer of containers provides some relief to congested MICT, “this is only a short-term solution.”
“For the long-term, the BOC is reminding importers to claim their containers to free up the yard. Since March 25, the MICP has recorded a total of 10,852 containers claimed from the yard, 1,007 of which are reefers and 9,845 dry containers,” BOC said.
On April 2, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Agriculture, BOC, and PPA signed JAO 20-01 that adopts processes that will expedite release of refrigerated containers and dry cargoes from the ports during the period of enhanced community quarantine.
The measures include strict rules on withdrawal of containers.
Limited movement of stakeholders
The Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI) in a memo on March 30 noted that the “stringent quarantine measure by enforcement agencies” have limited movement of its members. In addition, members have yet to receive the IATF ID.
The IATF ID is issued by the DTI to logistics service providers in order to allow them to pass checkpoints during the enhanced community quarantine.
Many cargo transport service providers have found it difficult, especially in the first days of the enhanced community quarantine, to operate as their trucks are being stopped at checkpoints despite an IATF order to ensure unhampered cargo movement.
Employees of cargo transport service providers and customs brokers have also been unable to report for work due to travel restrictions and the suspension of operation of public transportation.
CCBI said another limiting factor is the closure of BOC’s building in MICT after an employee tested positive for coronavirus disease, disrupting BOC operations, particularly assessment.
BOC assistant commissioner and spokesperson Atty. Vincent Philip Maronilla on April 3 said the customs bureau is already working to process all backlog shipments affected by the closure of its building in MICT. – Roumina Pablo
Photo courtesy of PCG