Shipping lines ‘cause of port congestion’

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Shipping lines are to be blamed for the congestion in Manila ports, brokers said on Monday.

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Rey Soliman, president of the Customs Brokers Council of the Philippines (CBCP), cited three reasons why shipping lines are the main culprit for the seven-month-old port congestion problem.

“First, they refuse to put up their respective depots since they are even earning from us importers. Second, it is cheaper to keep the empty containers here compared to other international ports. Third, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is not implementing the 150-day rule, which requires them to ship out their empty containers,” Soliman said.

The brokers said they are required to pay container deposit of at least P10,000.

“From the time we took the laden container, we are obliged to return it within 10 days. Failure to do so would mean a penalty. They will deduct the penalty from the deposit. Worse, it will take months, at most six to eight months, before we are reimbursed of the deposit,” Armando Chan, another broker, told The Manila Times.

Chan said shipping lines prefer to keep the empty containers in Manila because the penalty in Hong Kong and Singapore for overstaying container is US$100. In Manila, the penalty is a measly P50 per day.

Soliman said the BOC can force shipping lines to remove their empty containers if authorities will implement the 150-day maximum stay in the ports.

“The 150-day regulation starts on the day when the empty container is returned to the port. Within 150 days, the shipping lines are obliged to remove them or bring them back to the ports of origin. Failure to do so would mean confiscation,” he added.

Soliman, however, admitted, that since the implementation of Task Force Pantalan, the number of empty containers was reduced but not enough to return to manageable level.

“We can only say that the condition has improved if the trucks could pick up the laden container easily and return the empty container within at least two days. Now it takes a week or more to return the empty container,” he said.

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