AsiaPorts and Logistics

Shippers doubt government’s claims that Manila port is free of congestion

Manila: Claims by the government that port operations in the capital have returned to normal after 13 months of disruption have been by rubbished by a number of shipper groups.

The Semiconductor and Electronics Industries of the Philippines Inc (Seipi), the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc (Philexport) and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) have all admitted concerns about Manila port’s box handling capabilities in interviews with local newspaper, the Philippine Inquirer.

“While the port situation has improved with the utilization in the low to high 70%, I’m hesitant to conclude that congestion has been completely resolved until I see sustainability. Moreover, I don’t know how many more Philippine-bound containers are still backlogged in Kaoshiung, Singapore, Hong Kong and other ports outside Manila,” Seipi president Dan Lachica told the newspaper yesterday.

Philexport president Sergio Ortiz-Luis, meanwhile, said trucking rates were still too high, contrary to previous reports issued by the government.

“I have yet to find an exporter who can say that the congestion has already been resolved. Although it is true that the utilization has gone down from a high of 105% last year, it is now down to about 80%. But the ideal utilization should be around 60 to 70%,” Ortiz-Luis added. “We are now creating confusion as to what the real situation is.”

ECCP president Michael Raeuber said in a forum held Tuesday that he was cautious to see how the port would handle the peak season in the second of the year.

The Philippine government claimed at the start of this week that the capital’s year-long port congestion issues are over.

“There was a time that the ports and all the container yards were flooded with empty containers. As of the end of February 2015, this is no longer the situation,” secretary to the cabinet Jose Rene Almendras said in a statement.

Ports were under the spotlight on Wednesday at an infrastructure summit hosted by a number of international chambers of commerce in Manila.

At the event, Doris Ho, president and CEO of Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, one of the archipelago’s most established shipping names, urged more long term planning when it came to ports development.

“One of the problems we have in the country is that we’re only building infrastructure to achieve present demand. What we need to do is invest for future demand,” Ho said.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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