PH cargo ship launches non-stop voyage to US West Coast; easing of trade burdens amid pandemic eyed

Published September 24, 2021, 4:07 PM

by Roy Mabasa

Cargo ship MV Iris Paoay has recently made history for becoming the first Philippine flag container vessel to sail nonstop between Manila and the United States in decades, a project expected to reduce shipping time and ease traders’ burdens amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

US Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Mission Director Sean Callahan joined Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, Royal Cargo Chairman Michael Kurt Raeuber, and other government and private sector partners for the maiden voyage of MV Iris Paoay on September 20.

The USAID, through the Regulatory Reform Support Program for National Development (RESPOND) project, worked with the Export Development Council (EDC) and the University of the Philippines Public Administration Foundation to organize a series of high-level discussions to find solutions to the Philippines’ high international shipping costs and inadequate vessel space, and the nonstop service was identified as one of the solutions.

USAID and other stakeholders partnered with the Royal Cargo and its subsidiary Iris Logistics to launch the first nonstop Philippine shipping service between the Philippines and the US mainland in decades.

In a statement, Callahan said the USAID is proud to be part of the momentous occasion, an excellent way to mark the agency’s 60th year in the Philippines, and at the same time, the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

“We hope to foster an enabling environment for local business and to build the capacity of enterprises,” the USAID’s acting director added.

MV Iris Paoay will be the first Philippine flag container vessel to sail nonstop from the Philippines to the U.S. West Coast and back.

The shipping service is expected to increase the overall exchange of goods, especially highly perishable agricultural products, and enhance food security through on-time delivery of shipments.

Dr. Henry Basilio, Chairman of the EDC Networking Committee on Transport and Logistics, said the initiative has inspired other local shipping lines to also consider providing regional (intra-Asian) and trans-Pacific shipping services.

The Philippines is the US’ ninth largest export market for agricultural and related products, and the US, on the other hand, is the second-largest customer of Philippine agricultural and related exports. Two-way trade between the two countries amounted to $4.3 billion in 2020.

For the past six decades, USAID has partnered with the Philippine government and local organizations on development-oriented projects, investing around P257 billion ($5.1 billion) to support the country since 1961.