MORE ships are expected to make port of calls at the Subic Bay Freeport once the Subic Bay International Terminal Corp.’s (SBITC) container freight station (CFS) at the New Container Terminal 2 is completed.
The new CFS is the first such facility to serve the Central Luzon market as part of the campaign to make the Port of Subic a key gateway as the Port of Manila reaches saturation point.
“The advocacy is to develop the Subic port as a major port, not just an alternative port,” Malou Balano, executive director of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PhilExport)-Region 3, said over the weekend.
The move to de-clog Manila by diverting vessels to outlying ports like Subic and Batangas is an offshoot of the congestion problem that gripped the Manila Port Area in 2014.
At that time the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and SBITC decided to step up the development of Subic port, Balano said.
A technical working group composed of public and private stakeholders including SBMA, SBITC, PhilExport-Region 3, Bureau of Customs, and Clark Development Corp., was convened to address the obstacles to utilizing Subic and enticing more carriers to dock at the port.
“We see [the use of Subic]not just a temporary solution but a permanent one to support cost reduction and trade facilitation efforts of the PhilExport R3,” Balano said.
She said Region 3 has a number of advantages as a maritime base with an excellent infrastructure such as the North Luzon Expressway and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, modern roadways that facilitate access to the port.
Stevedoring and arrastre rates in the region “are even lower compared to the Manila ports,” providing the manufacturing and exporting sectors in North Luzon “relief from increased hauling and congestion-related charges,” Balano said.
Region 3 or Central Luzon encompasses the provinces of Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales.
SBITC has tapped ECU Worldwide (through ECU-Line Philippines Inc.) to meet the needs of exporters and importers with smaller shipments that are less than a container load.
With an annual capacity of 600,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), the Port of Subic is still under utilized. It surpassed the 100,000 TEU mark in November 2015 with 123,558 TEUs processed, up from 77,618 TEUs in 2014.
SBITC is a subsidiary of International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), a global port operator, developer and manager with a portfolio of terminals and projects in the Asia Pacific, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.