By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Port operator International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) has welcomed concrete steps taken by the Philippine government to clear Manila ports of overstaying cargo.
In a statement, Christian R. Gonzalez, ICTSI Global Corporate head hailed collaborative and complementing efforts of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), the Department of Transportation (DoTr), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to resolve the issue of overstaying cargo at Manila ports, and ensuring their swift disposition.
“We thank the Philippine government for taking a hard stand in fast-tracking the disposal and reduction of overstaying and empty containers at Manila ports. The results have been immediate and goes to show what determination and focus of purpose can do,” Gonzalez said.
Roughly a month after the PPA issued an ultimatum for overstaying containers, yard utilization at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) rapidly decreased by about 20 percent, from 90 percent in January this year to 70 percent 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.
Import dwell time has likewise been reduced from 11 days in January to 6.6 days at the start of April. This has resulted in zero ship queues compared to December’s peak season.
ICTSI also continues to transfer more overstaying laden containers to Laguna Gateway Inland Container Terminal (LGICT) in Calamba.
Gonzalez added: “We are optimistic that most have understood the need for containers to move regularly and in a timely fashion, but the proof will come after Easter which historically has seen overstaying boxes surge.”
The government has led various port stakeholders — including ICTSI, Asian Terminals, Inc. (ATI), and international shipping lines — in the signing a Manifesto of Support last 15 March for the efficient utilization of Manila ports, encouraging the immediate retrieval of overstaying and empty cargo to designated ports and off-dock depots. A joint administrative order (JAO) will soon be issued by the Trade Department, the BOC and PPA to address concerns on unreturned empties and overstaying imports.
Even before the manifesto was signed, ICTSI took the lead along with Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL), Alliance of Concerned Truck Owners and Organizations and Container Depot Alliance of the Philippines 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, a bonded facility in Calamba, and the Cavite Gateway Terminal in Tanza is likewise encouraged to improve truck movement in the metro.