Manila ports report higher container pullouts, lower yard utilization

Weeks after government agencies and the private sector signed a manifesto for the efficient use of Philippine ports, improvements in container pullouts and yard utilization at Manila ports have been recorded, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said in a statement.

Container pullouts from Manila South Harbor and Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) increased by 18% from March 15, the date of the signing of the manifesto, to March 28.

Yard utilization at Manila South Harbor and MICT have also been cut from 98% in December 2018 to 69% as of end-March, and from 90% in January to 70% at the start of April, respectively.

In addition, vessels waiting at the anchorage from March 15 to 28 at the MICT declined significantly, from seven to eight ships to zero; and the Manila South Harbor from 18 ships to just one to two ships, DOTr said.

The manifesto of support for the efficient utilization of Philippine ports was signed by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Bureau of Customs (BOC), Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL), and port operators Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI) and International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI). The manifesto encourages the immediate retrieval of overstaying containers from Manila ports.

“A healthy port means no congestion, no delays in cargo delivery, and stable prices of goods. A healthy port ensures a continuous flow of maritime commerce and an efficient container yard utilization,” DOTr said.

“Aside from addressing port congestion, we have also opened new RoRo routes that fully connect our regions to one another for faster delivery of goods and trade. We are closely working with our partners and stakeholders to fully elevate the country’s economic status worldwide for the benefit of the Filipino people,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade separately told members of the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines on April 8.

“In less than a month after the signing of the manifesto, we have started removing containers used for unfair practices. Formalizing an agreement is one thing, implementing it is another, and we have done that effectively and immediately,” Tugade said.

In an earlier statement, ICTSI said import dwell time at MICT has been reduced from 11 days in January to 6.6 days at the start of April, following a PPA order to transfer all overstaying Customs-cleared containers out of Manila ports.

“This has resulted in zero ship queues compared to December’s peak season,” ICTSI noted.

It added that yard utilization at MICT has declined from 90% in January to 70% at the start of April.

“The healthy yard utilization happened despite higher volume handled, especially in March where MICT handled a record monthly volume. The terminal was able to accept almost double the number of empty containers it was receiving, freeing up trucks in the process which, in turn, resulted to more import pull outs. Shipping lines have now been able to bridge the gap in achieving their weekly empty container evacuation targets,” ICTSI said.

The port operator said it still continues to transfer more overstaying laden containers to Laguna Gateway Inland Container Terminal (LGICT) in Calamba.

Prior to the signing of the manifesto of support, PPA published a notice ordering all importers and cargo owners to withdraw their Customs-cleared containers in Manila ports from March 1 to 15, otherwise cargoes will be transferred to outside depots at their expense.

PPA also recently issued Administrative Order No. 02-2019, which provides guidelines for the transfer of overstaying imported cargoes from Manila South Harbor and MICT to designated ports in a bid to promote optimal terminal efficiency and address high import dwell time.

Even earlier than the signing of the manifesto, ICTSI, AISL, Alliance of Concerned Truck Owners and Organizations, and Container Depot Alliance of the Philippines had agreed to undertake immediate measures in alleviating problems connected with returning empty containers.

This includes the identification of depot areas that could be leased for empty storage, with ICTSI covering the cost of the lease; movement of more than 5,000 overstaying containers to bonded warehouses outside of the terminal; and use of the San Miguel Yamamura property near the MICT to store and reposition of empty containers, starting April 1.

The use of LGICT and the Cavite Gateway Terminal in Tanza was likewise encouraged to improve truck movement in the metro.

DTI, DOTr, Department of Finance, BOC and PPA are also set to sign a joint administrative order that contains measures to alleviate port congestion, among others.

All these efforts are meant to address high import dwell time and promote optimal terminal efficiency in Manila’s international terminals, which for several months since last year, had high utilization due to a number of factors, including the overstaying of import cargoes.

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