It might take three to eight months before yard utilization at the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) returns to more ideal levels.
Yard use has been stretched since the Feb 24 imposition of the Manila truck ban policy, which has since translated to higher truck turnaround, a pileup of containers at the ports, vessels waiting for berth, and a general slowdown in trade.
Christian Gonzalez, general manager of MICT and head of Asia-Pacific region of International Container Terminal Services, Inc., told PortCalls in an email that bringing back yard utilization to around 70% would depend on “how much effort is put in to work on Sundays and Monday mornings and how much of a backlog remains in foreign ports.
“The most important thing is MICT is moving in the right direction. Barring any major typhoons or major issues like long holidays that will reduce import pullouts, I can say that the range will be 3 to 8 months.”
Gonzalez said the 24/7 express trade lane implemented by the city of Manila on May 31 “has been very good, and City Hall has been very objective and proactive in finding new ways to support reducing the backlog,” adding that the port operator continues to work with Manila on the issue.
He said “the nature of a backlog, however, is that it needs to be cleared, and because the backlog [is] so great, it will take a significant time to clear it.”
“This being said, utilization is still at its maximum levels and inching lower very slowly,” Gonzalez said. But a major problem is the “lack of import pullouts on Sundays and Mondays”, he added.
According to him, the number of ships “waiting for berth is variable and dependent on arrivals. It is definitely better than last week (June 23-29), and on Monday (June 30) we had it down to two. Unfortunately weekends are heavy so this is now back to between five and seven, depending on how quickly we complete ships.”
Asked if government measures announced last week were enough to arrest the domino effect of the truck ban, Gonzalez said: “People must stop being in denial and realize and accept Manila has the capacity, depth, equipment, systems and, most importantly, the market that dictate that it is the principal gateway to the Philippines and the principal driver for trade growth. The ultimate solution is the fast-tracked development of new roadways.”
Four months after the truck ban was implemented, various government entities finally laid down measures to decongest Manila ports, including extending work hours of the Bureau of Customs at the Port of Manila, MICP and in certain economic zones, and strict implementation of the 30-day seizure policy for overstaying cargoes.
A short-term solution, Gonzalez said, is to “enhance city hall’s efforts by continuing to improve proper management of key routes where containers pass and putting in place an appointment system to make sure everyone in the supply chain is obligated to maximize all 7 days of the week, 24 hours a day.”
The mid-term solution, on the other hand, is to “maximize the use of Subic and Batangas by ensuring the market is given incentives to move their manufacturing and trading bases to those areas to create the scale needed to justify direct shipping calls there.”
Effects on domestic port
Meanwhile, the truck ban has had minimal impact on North Port.
Richard Barclay, CEO of Manila North Harbour Port Inc, operator of the domestic port, told PortCalls, “With or without the truck ban there has not been a significant impact on our terminal operations.”
He said “average yard utilization is 45% with some occasional peaking at 64%”, adding that “generally ships (are) not waiting for a berth.”
North Port’s volume growth is expected to be approximately 10% for 2014 over 2013, he said. Barclay also noted, “Only a small percentage of trucks (have been) affected” by the joint Department of Transportation and Communications-Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board-Land Transportation memo on higher penalties for illegally operating vehicles, including trucks.
“Some domestic shipping lines have affiliated companies that provide trucking services. The impact of the truck ban will vary depending on the type of plates (yellow, green) their trucks possess and the age of the trucks. But if all affiliated companies will be able to renew their trucks earlier and have younger fleet of trucks, the impact will be minimal. This also applies to INHTA (Integrated North Harbor Truckers Association) trucks and other truck affiliations,” he said. — Roumina Pablo