What's wrong with properly managing container vans? PPA asks critics amid new 'disinformation'

First-hand and real time information on the status of container storage in ports and private off-dock yards will provide shippers and customs brokers the power to properly and effectively manage imported goods that eventually lower the logistics cost.

This was emphasized by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) as it assailed what it calls another disinformation drive in an apparent bid to cancel the implementation of the Trusted Operator Program – Container Registry and Monitoring System (TOP-CRMS), which uses technology for up-to-date container tracking that allows customers, carriers, freight forwarders, and shippers to access the status of their cargoes and containers.

In a statement, PPA General Manager Jay Santiago said the TOP-CRMS was never designed to put container yards out of business as claimed by its critics, including some business groups from the shipping industry which have been very vocal against the implementation of the digital monitoring and registration of container vans.

"PPA has never intended to put any Filipino enterprise out of business. On the contrary, we have always espoused the professionalization of the different sectors of the logistics industry to make it more transparent and efficient because it is our belief that better transparency and efficiency will be the key to bringing logistics costs down by eliminating avoidable friction costs," said Santiago.

Citing the Implementing Operating Guideline of PPA AO 04-2021, Santiago explained that the TOP-CRMS would even maximize its use through partnership with owners of private off-dock container yards under the Empty Container Storage Shared Staging Facility (ECSSF) in addition to the inland container yard facilities to be managed by PPA

He said the accreditation for ECSSF is optional for all interested private off-dock container yards.

But for those who wants to have their private off-dock container yards part of the TOP-CRMS, Santiago said they will be enrolled in a digital dashboard which will provide port users real-time information as to available slots for empty container returns in order to avoid perennial complaints of empty container return rejection at designated yards of shipping lines.

"Thus, and contrary to the misguided belief of certain sectors, we expect that the business of the private container yards enrolled as part of the ECSSF will even grow because their market will expand instead of just relying on the designation of a few shipping lines," said Santiago.

"On the part of local importers, we anticipate that their expenses for empty container handling will be reduced since the process will be more transparent and efficient. They will be able to avoid paying illegal exactions from traffic enforcers and container yard personnel, not to mention detention charges on account of unavailability of yard slots for empty containers," he emphasized.

Read the operating guidelines

Santiago then urged critics to read and understand the draft TOP-CRMS guideline.

“Once again, we hope that critics of the TOP CRMS will read the latest draft of the Implementing Operating Guidelines so that they will be properly informed of the details of the program in order to avoid the dissemination of inaccurate information," he said.

Based on the draft of the Implementing Operating Guidelines, the PPA cited 12 objectives as to why the TOP-CRMS should be implemented, among them are:

1. to streamline the procedures covering all activities related to the entry, scheduling, loading, unloading, release and movement of all containers originating from foreign ports entering and leaving ports under the administrative jurisdiction of PPA;

2. to help remedy congestion in ports and help ease traffic at access roads to and from the ports;

3. to help reduce the cost of transporting goods by requiring container insurance coverage for containers required to be registered, in lieu of the more costly container deposit fees;

4. to assist terminal operators or container yard operators in managing and planning the capacity of their container yard facility in order to efficiently use the terminals for inbound and outbound laden containers.

5. to implement and institutionalize the container identification, accountability, and protection program to demonstrate PPA’s commitment to internationally agreed standards specified by the CCP of the UNODC-WCO (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime-World Customs Organization).

6. to help prevent the use of foreign-owned containers in the commission of unlawful acts such as terrorism, human trafficking, illegal drugs and narcotics trade, arms smuggling, technical smuggling, and all such criminal activities as classified by the CCP of the UNODC-WCO;

7. to assist law enforcement efforts in the discovery and deterrence of crimes and threats to public safety and national security.

The TOP-CRMS, based on the Implementing Operating Guidelines, applies to all foreign-owned containers originating from foreign ports that will be unloaded at government and/or private ports under the administrative jurisdiction of PPA.

In terms of the claims by some critics on private off-dock yards, Santiago said the same guideline recognized their role under the definition of Container Staging Facility which states that it is a shared service facility used for stacking and storage of empty foreign-owned containers that are scheduled for re-export.

"Container Staging Facilities consist of container depots, warehouses, or other areas accredited and authorized by the PPA, or container depot or container yard owned and operated by terminal operators authorized by PPA," the draft guidelines read.

Based on the same guideline, the utilization of Container Staging Facilities accredited and authorized by the PPA and other container depot or container yard owned and operated terminal operators authorized by PPA, the shipping line/shipping agent shall be charged Container Yard Handling and Storage Fees (storage of up to 3 days) amounting to Three Thousand Four Hundred Eight Pesos (Php 3,408.00) exclusive of VAT (Value Added Tax), per container.

No duplicity

Santiago said the TOP-CRMS implementation would not compete with the system being implemented by the Bureau of Customs.

He explained that the mandate and interests of BOC are specific to cargo and identification of implements used to transport cargo from ports of origin, shipments, and port of destination: "Streamlining does not mean any government agency will forgo its mandate and subsume authority under another agency."

Santiago pointed out that the PPA recognizes the mandate of the BOC to exercise jurisdiction over private container yards.

"In fact, one of the requirements to be accredited as part of the ECSSSF is that the enrolling private container yard should be authorized by the Bureau of Customs. The TOP CRMS, particularly the ECSSSF dashboard, merely provides for a digital platform where empty container slots are available at ECSSSF-accredited facilities," said Santiago.