Manila ports begin to clear cargo, container backlog

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THE number of laden and empty shipping containers clogging Manila’s two ports has been reduced after the implementation of some steps to relieve congestion, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) said.

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As recently as two months ago, the number of laden containers piled up at the Manila ports totaled 99,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), or 105 percent of the capacity of the yards of the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) and the Manila South Harbor.

As of August 15, however, the number has been significantly cut, the PPA said.

Also, the number of empty containers in the port yards has been slashed from a high of 22,000 TEUs to about 12,000 TEUs, according to PPA General Juan Sta. Ana. Part of the reduction was accomplished by the move of MICT’s operator, International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), to transfer some 3,000 empty containers from Manila to Subic to make room for more cargo.

ICTSI is also set to complete the container yard specifically provided for its Berth 7 at the MICT in the next 30 to 60 days to accommodate the expected surge in cargo volume due to the run-up to Christmas, and to store empty containers awaiting pick-up by foreign shipping lines.

Sta. Ana said a couple of mitigating measures will be implemented again by both sectors to facilitate the de-clogging of the Manila ports.

“Based on our current inventory, we have to clear about 8,175 TEUs, as we are now below the 90 percent yard utilization threshold,” Sta. Ana explained.

“The number of empties inside the ports has likewise dwindled down to only 12,000 TEUs and this number will be further reduced as shipping lines continue to pull out their empties at the ports,” Sta. Ana said.

“Held-up containers at foreign ports [due to the congestion in Manila]have likewise declined significantly from 37,000 TEUs some two months ago to only 20,000 as of this month,” Sta. Ana said.

He added that, “The reduction in the number of laden and empty containers suggests that productivity has increased dramatically resulting in better efficiency in handling cargoes and vessels at the Manila ports.”

Disperse containers
Sta. Ana also noted that a number of business groups, including the Federation of Philippine Industries, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Joint Foreign Chambers, the Indian Foreign Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce have all agreed to withdraw their shipments during weekends to disperse the number of containers released during weekdays and also to accelerate the reduction of containers inside the ports.

The foreign shipping lines, led by the members of the Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL), have also committed to extend their offices’ operating hours to accommodate other concerns of the cargo owners like payment of demurrage and other vessel-related fees, he said.

Government, led by the Cabinet Cluster on Port Congestion, and private sector stakeholders are also set to meet with Metro Mayors to discuss a temporary lifting of the truck ban rule on specific routes, particularly those going to destinations east of Manila like Ortigas, Marikina, and Pasig. The two sectors estimate that only a third of the roads around the National Capital Region will be included in their request.

The Cluster is also considering other ways to further decongest the ports, including the opening up of additional empty container depots with close proximity to the Manila ports; the relocation of customs-cleared overstaying containers; and weekend deliveries.

Earlier, the PPA ordered the two port operators, ICTSI and Manila South Harbor operator Asian Terminals Inc., to provide a list of shipments containing food items and other perishables and prioritize their release in order to reduce the possible inflationary effects of congestion on food items in the market.

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