Harbor Star plans Cavite-Manila ‘marine highway’

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MARITIME services provider Harbor Star Shipping Services Inc. plans to operate a container chassis roll-on/roll-off (Cha-Ro) system between the Cavite and Manila ports that will seek to create a “marine highway” for the transport of big containers and help decongest traffic in Metro Manila.

Geronimo Bella Jr., Harbor Star president, said the company is looking to transport about 1,000 to 2,000 twenty-foot or forty-foot equivalent units of containers through the 25 nautical miles between the Cavite and Manila ports. He said this is about 1 kilometer worth of cleared roads in the metropolis.

Bella said after the special stockholders meeting on Monday, the marine highway operations will start as soon as the Cavite Gateway Terminal (CGT), which will be managed by ports operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), is completed. CGT will rise in a six-hectare property in Tanza, Cavite.

“It’s a very nice project because a large portion of the traffic will be eased here in Metro Manila,” Bella said. He added the marine highway operations will be handled by Harbor Star while the Cavite terminal operations will be managed by ICTSI.

Dany Cleo Uson, Harbor Star investor relations officer, said: “Instead of roads, we use the waters to transport containers. This will solve the traffic problem in the metropolis. It is a very smart alternative use of the sea rather than the roads.”

Uson said the company plans to run the Cha-Ro shuttle service twice a day, seven days a week. He said they plan to provide the solution “also in Bataan and in Cebu.”

For its international expansion plans, Uson said the firm is working on service contracts with oil tank farms in Malaysia and Myanmar, and a contract to provide two tugboats for Indonesian firm PT Pertamina.

Bella said talks are also ongoing with a potential partner for a five-year contract to build and operate a 25-megawatt solar farm in Mindanao.

Harbor Star is currently refurbishing its floating Bataan shipyard, which will be completed by mid-2018, and putting up a training facility offering maritime courses. It has allotted a capital expenditure of P300 million this year for the acquisition of six tugboats to increase its fleet to 58.

During the stockholders’ meeting, Harbor Star said it aims to raise P1 billion through a follow-on offering in the third quarter of this year.

It plans to offer 300 million to 500 million common shares, equivalent to 17.5 percent to 25 percent of the outstanding common shares, at an indicative price of P2 to P3 per share.

Proceeds of the share offer will partly finance its expansion plans.

As of end-December 2015, the company has established operations in 14 base ports nationwide, providing services to about 6,164 ship calls. The major ports that it services include the Manila International Container Terminal, Bataan, Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao.

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