Approximately a fifth of around 17,000 to 22,000 empty containers in Manila Ports have been cleared after international shipping lines last week sent sweeper vessels to move out empty containers, a measure seen by the government to decongest the ports.
Sweepers are dedicated vessels sent by international carriers for specific purposes and, in this case, to load and move out empty containers at the ports of Manila to a specific destination at the expense of the shipping lines.
In a statement, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) said the initiative of shipping lines to send their sweepers will ease congestion at Manila ports, specifically the Manila International Container Terminal and the Manila South Harbor.
“It is considered as a very huge step towards realizing our timeline to free up as much space as possible inside the ports prior to the expected surge in volume due to the run-up to Christmas,” PPA general manager Juan Sta. Ana said.
He added that this move, along with the other mitigating measures already in place and are expected to be implemented will “definitely bring Manila back to optimum and efficient level of operations.”
In the next three weeks, PPA said Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL) members MOL, Pacific International Lines and Evergreen will mount at least three more sweeper calls at Manila ports.
The first of three is expected to call on August 3 or 4 and the remaining two on or before August 15.
PPA said once the carriers effectively clear out their empties at Manila ports, yard utilization is expected to drop to 80%—considered the optimum level on port efficiency and operations—from the current yard utilization of 96%. In May, yard utilization was at 110%.
MICT operator International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), continues to offer its New Container Terminal 2 in Subic Bay as temporary container depot for empties free of charge, PPA said. ICTSI is likewise offering its 21-hectare facility in Cabuyao, Laguna as another facility for empty containers.
The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) has likewise offered a 5.2-hectare facility in its Cavite zone that will serve as holding facility for laden containers for its member-locators.
PEZA is now in the process of finalizing a measure expected to clear another 4,000 laden containers out of Manila ports.
Meanwhile, PPA said the recovery period from congestion is from three to four months, particularly with 12 cargo vessels still awaiting berth from any of the two Manila port operators. Waiting time for each vessel is from five to 10 days still due to congestion.
“Measures are slowly being put into place and before we know it, we will be back to normal. I am encouraging all concerns to give extra more effort and patience as the positive effects of the measures take time before it trickle down to the end user,” Sta. Ana said.
Aside from the sweepers, PPA is also asking foreign shipping lines to divert cargoes to the ports of Subic and Batangas as another temporary measure to help in decongesting Manila ports.
In a letter to AISL dated July 22, Sta. Ana urged members of the association to “confer and coordinate among themselves and the terminal operators, ICTSI and ATI (Asian Terminals Inc.), to agree on a schedule for the temporary rotational diversion of their vessels to alternative ports such as Subic and Batangas as temporary measure to decongest the Port of Manila.”
AISL general manager Atty Maximino Cruz told PortCalls in a text message that while the association is “very much aware of the need to decongest Manila and the measures being taken by the government and all stakeholders, it (diverting cargo to alternative ports) is a commercial decision member lines” must take. – Roumina Pablo
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