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North Port Terminal 1 | Photo from www.northport.ph

Port operator Manila North Harbour Port, Inc.’s (MNHPI) requirement for all container vessels to berth at Terminal 1 of North Port starting June 22 does not need prior public consultation since the rule is already part of existing regulation, according to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

In an email to PortCalls, PPA Port Management Office-National Capital Region North port manager Annie Lee Manese said, “…MNHPI did not issue a new policy or guideline. Berth management is included their management contract. What MNHPI issued was just an advisory of an existing regulation and it does not need prior consultation with stakeholders.”

The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) earlier asked PPA for comments on allowing MNHPI to implement the berthing guideline allegedly “without proper consultation with stakeholders.”

READ: ARTA seeks PPA comment on berthing rule adopted sans consultation

The MNHPI June 8 advisory, signed by MNHPI general manager Romeo Salvador, states that starting June 22, all container vessels calling North Port will have to berth at Terminal 1. As a consequence, domestic ships will need to use the quay cranes in Terminal 1 and pay cranage fees.

Based on MNHPI data provided to PortCalls, 68.97% of the total number of vessels that have called North Port from January to May are container vessels and the rest, breakbulk vessels.

Salvador said the berthing guideline is in “compliance to government regulations on strict social/physical distancing while ensuring the unhampered delivery of port services”, and is in line with the port modernization program between PPA and MNHPI. The port operator in 2010 won a 25-year concession to modernize and operate North Port.

“The use of quay cranes is a standard global best practice for container terminals and the most socially distant form of terminal handling,” Salvador pointed out.

The Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines (SCMAP), in an earlier statement sent to PortCalls, welcomed ARTA’s decision to seek PPA comment on the berthing regulation.

“We hope that this action would lead to the deferment of the implementation of this new policy, which will burden cargo owners—and ultimately, end consumers—with additional costs without consulting stakeholders who will be affected by it,” SCMAP said.

Prior to the adoption of the berthing policy, domestic shipping lines calling North Port have the option to use the lift-on/lift-off (Lo-Lo) berths served by gangs, a group of cargo workers employed by stevedoring companies to work the ships.

Domestic shipping lines predominantly operate ships that are fitted with their own gears that do not necessarily require the service of quay cranes. Domestic shipping lines call ports that are still not equipped with quay cranes, thus, the use of ships with own gears.

MNHPI said priority of berthing in Terminal 1 will generally be based on compliance to the port’s berthing requirements/guidelines.

Roll-on/roll-off vessels, breakbulk vessels, and container vessels carrying significant breakbulk cargoes will be served at Terminal 2.

Current PPA-approved cranage rates for full and empty containers and other port charges apply to crane operations at Terminal 1. Cargo owners may pay directly to MNHPI.

According to PPA Memorandum Circular No. 18-2018, cranage rates at North Port are P1,417 per loaded 20-footer and below and P1,982 per container above 20-footer. For empty containers, cranage rate for 20-footer and below is P1,191.50 and P1,535.50 for those above 20-footer.

Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA) president Mark Matthew Parco earlier acknowledged that the use of quay cranes “can improve productivity and ease the port congestion” but the situation would compel shipping lines to pass on the cranage cost to customers.

Parco said shipping lines need to conserve cash so they would rather go for the lowest cost option, which in this case is use of LoLo berths. Domestic shipping lines have been heavily affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, with cargo volumes dropping at 70%.

After community quarantines in the country are lifted, estimates point to cargo traffic being only 50-70% of pre-COVID-19 levels. – Roumina Pablo

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