Overstaying cargoes continue to plague Manila ports
PPA general manager Jay Santiago said the shutdown could happen if cargo owners and consignees continue to disregard calls to withdraw cleared, ready for delivery, and overstaying cargoes.
STAREdd Gumban/File

Overstaying cargoes continue to plague Manila ports

Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - April 1, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) has warned of the possibility of Manila ports shutting down if cargo owners and consignees fail to heed calls to unclog terminals.

PPA general manager Jay Santiago said the shutdown could happen if cargo owners and consignees continue to disregard calls to withdraw cleared, ready for delivery, and overstaying cargoes.

“Ports, specifically the Manila ports, are the lungs of the country’s commerce and trade. These lungs right now are not functioning efficiently due to congestion,” Santiago said.

“If we continue to ignore calls to withdraw even only those cleared, ready for delivery, and overstaying cargoes, these lungs are in danger of total collapse, resulting in full-blown port congestion, or worst, a shutdown, and consequently a shortage in the much needed  goods and supplies which are expected to address the demands of the market,” he said.

The PPA said yard utilization at the Manila international ports, composed of the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) and the Manila South Harbor, are almost 100 percent full as majority of cargoes remained idle after the implementation of the community quarantine two weeks ago.

Despite efforts to transfer cleared and overstaying containers from the MICT to a facility inside the Manila North Harbor, Santiago said there is still not enough breathing space for the Manila port terminals to operate efficiently and productively.

“Again, government is appealing to the consignees, cargo owners, brokers, logistics, manufacturers and other supply chain service providers to help us address this situation by withdrawing their cargoes,” he said. “We really need to clear these cargoes to accommodate the incoming ones as most of our needs to fight this COVID-19 pandemic are in these incoming cargoes,” Santiago said.

The PPA, Bureau of Customs, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Agriculture are now looking at measures to prevent congestion at the ports after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases issued an order to clear the ports of containers.

The PPA said among the measures being considered for implementation include the forfeiture of overstaying cargoes in favor of government, and reducing the cargo clearing and free storage periods from the current allowable time to force cargo owners to withdraw as they will be burdened with heavy fines, penalties, and storage fees.

The agencies are expected to come out with a joint memorandum circular to effect the needed yard management at the Manila ports.

As a stop-gap measure, the PPA has authorized an area at the Manila North Harbor, the country’s premiere domestic terminal, for the purpose of the immediate and accelerated transfer of all overstaying foreign containers already cleared for delivery or withdrawal.

This is to maintain the high operational efficiency and productivity of the MICT while the entire island of Luzon is under the enhanced community quarantine.

Last Friday, International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) appealed to cargo owners to remove immediately their containers at its flagship MICT to ensure efficient maritime trade flow.

ICTSI executive vice president Christian Gonzalez said they have now reached a point where it is becoming impossible to operate in an efficient manner.

“Containers are simply not being removed from the terminal. We understand that it is unfeasible for some, and many businesses have been temporarily shut down, but without the full support of everyone that is able to open, we will come to a point when efficient operations will no longer be possible,” Gonzalez said.

As of Friday, the PPA said over 800 cleared reefer vans are inside the MICT containing perishables like food, medicines and other essentials, while more than 2,000 dry containers already cleared and ready for delivery remain inside the terminal.

The number has further increased as of yesterday, according to PPA.

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