Tacloban port reopens to commercial vessels


The Port of Tacloban, one of several public infrastructure damaged by super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda), is now fully functioning, according to Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Juan C. Sta. Ana.

PPA contracted International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), operator of the Manila International Container Terminal, to run the facility for “P1 per six months to provide all the cargo-handling equipment and (to) operate it for free,” Sta. Ana said in a press conference at the sidelines of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development training camp in Port Area, Manila, last Tuesday.

“We can bring in commercial vessels and it’s (Tacloban port) capable of handling containers,” Sta. Ana said.

ICTSI shipped all equipment on a barge that arrived in Tacloban port on Nov. 20. The barge carried 12 forklifts, seven generator sets, six tower lights to enable night-time operations at the port, reach stackers and five payloaders, Sta. Ana noted.

In an earlier statement, ICTSI said it was sending a start-up team of engineers, operations managers and staff, as well as equipment operators to the port of Tacloban.

“As soon as it (barge carrying the equipment) arrives, we will clear all the debris in the port, put all the tower lights, install the generators, mobilize all the equipment, clear the port because a big vessel of about 200 containers will be coming in a few days,” Sta. Ana said, adding that the ship is also carrying relief goods.

ICTSI will man the port until its cargo handler can resume operations, but when this will be the PPA chief could not say.

“Our main objective is to make the port efficient,” he stressed.

Sta. Ana said he had met with Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo and executives of shipping lines on Nov. 18 to explain what PPA would do for Tacloban.

“We’re assuring them (shipping lines) that port turnaround will be fast,” Sta. Ana said.

He said the PPA is looking at waiving cargo-handling and berthing charges on all landing craft tanks (LCT), barges, and all other vessels — including commercial — as long as they are ferrying relief cargo.

“We are waiving cargo-handling fees, berthing is free, but the port authority is seeking approval from Malacañang,” he said.


Matnog port congestion

Meanwhile, the bottleneck at the Port of Matnog in Sorsogon has been relieved after several days of road congestion cause by the influx of passengers wanting to travel from the port to Leyte and Samar, the PPA chief said.

“We have decongested Matnog,” Sta. Ana said, adding that as of the morning of Nov.19, the then 8-kilometer-long queue had been reduced to a kilometer.

The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) has deployed roll-on roll off vessels to carry loads out of Matnog, Sta. Ana said.

He said the PPA had also opened the Port of Bulan, near Matnog, to handle cargoes and passengers.

The MARINA deployed six additional vessels, mostly LCTs, to Matnog port on Nov. 18, bringing the number of vessels plying the route to 14 and easing the backlog substantially.

These vessels are: AT-296 (BRP Tagbanua), LCT Ocean Royal, LCT Aviva 5, LCT Christian James 2693, LCT Mei Ling 3, and MV Maria Natasha.

The authority said two LCTs are serving Bulan port.

More vessels are expected to join the fleet soon, according to MARINA.

Sta. Ana noted that ports under the PPA devastated by the typhoon were operational again two days after the calamity struck, except Tacloban port.

As of Nov. 17, the port of Tacloban has received seven vessels, Sta. Ana noted.––Roumina M. Pablo

Photo from www.ppa.com.ph