Port congestion ‘far from being solved’

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Despite improvements in Manila’s port congestion, key issues still need to be addressed, especially in view of the holiday import surge, an industry group said.

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“While there has been significant progress in the port problem, it is still far from being solve,” Ernesto Ordonez of the Federation of Philippine Industries told reporters Friday.

He added that, “We are very grateful for efforts of the group and organizations that have addressed this problem, however, concerted action on the remaining challenges is crucial.”

Ordonez was referring to the Port Congestion Multisectoral Working Group (PC-MWG), which has reported a 15 percent reduction in port congestion and a 30 percent improvement in the movement of goods.

However, because of the tremendous backlog that has accumulated and the Christmas season import surge, the PC-MWG believes that port congestion is still a serious problem.

To illustrate the problem, the PC-MWG reported that as recently as recently as November, at least 25 ships were queuing at the ICTSI terminal, with the last ship having to wait more than 10 days before berthing. “Thankfully, the number of queuing ships was reduced to 12 this week, illustrating that progress has actually taken place,” Ordonez added.

Key challenges
One of the key challenges at this point is the threat from the truck ban along Roxas Boulevard to erase gains achieved in the last eight months, according to one port operator.

More than 30 percent of the commercial vehicles that use the ports ply Roxas Boulevard, and shutting down the highway to trucks during the holidays dramatically lowers the efficiency of trade to and from the port, the operator explained.

The solution, the PC-MWG agreed, is to keep Metro Manila’s highways open to truck traffic.

The PC-MWG also pointed out the need for shipping lines to take more responsibility for managing their empty containers, though the group recognized that several shipping lines are providing more container yard space and are “behaving appropriately.”

The PC-MWG has recommended that a system be put into place so that the shipping line, not the importer, pays for the time lost when the container yard specified in the Interchange Receipt is not available, and that the appropriate government agency calls on the shipping lines to look at the justification behind their increased rates, and suggests modifications for the appropriate cases.

Additional solutions
Other recommendations made by the PC-MWG include:

• Keeping Roxas Boulevard open to trucks during the holidays when trade is the heaviest. Of the estimated 6,000 trucks that use the port daily, 2,000 of them pass through Roxas Boulevard. These vehicles are now forced to reroute to narrower side streets, which lead to logistical problems;

• Finding more space for “empties.” Empty containers parked at the port are hampering the movement of goods and they urgently need to be stored in alternative locations, something which should be the responsibility of the shipping lines, the group said.

• Streamlining the BIR accreditation process for importers.

• Implementing a moratorium on 15-year truck (No Year Confirmation) rule. The NYC has effectively curtailed the country’s trucking capacity by 70 percent, thereby dramatically hindering the movement of crucial goods to the people and businesses who need them, the group said.

“The government and the private sector have achieved a lot in terms of reducing the port congestion problem, but we have not solved it yet. We look forward to a productive dialogue and collaboration with port stakeholders to respond to this great challenge that our nation faces,” Ordonez added.

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