Tuesday, March 30, 2021

To resolve the hampered shipping operations along the Matnog-Allen route

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Due to the perennial traffic congestion along the road leading to Matnog Port, our agencies, namely: the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), in an inter-agency meeting, have laid out measures to address causes of congestion.

The inter-agency investigation revealed that the port is suffering from a lack of roro vessels to ferry the trucks across San Bernardino Strait to Samar. Only nine (9) vessels with Certificates of Public Convenience (CPC) were servicing the route from 01 January to 17 March 2021. Under normal conditions, at least twelve (12) vessels should be operating in the area. Non-operating vessels were reported to be either under repair or are incapable of sailing as they are not equipped for harsh sea conditions.

To encourage more shipping companies to operate in the said route, the MARINA and PPA will initiate a program to provide financial assistance under Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).

Meanwhile, MARINA is reviewing the shipping company’s schedule and the number of trips per vessel as provided under their respective Certificates of Public Convenience (CPCs).

MARINA has advised these shipping companies to increase the frequency of their trips to compensate for the shortage of vessels, and replace dry-docked vessels to ensure the stable operations of the route.

As a result, ten (10) vessels are now operating at the Matnog-Samar route.

Further, GT Express Shipping has conveyed its willingness to resume the operations of its LCT (landing craft tank) Star Asia with a capacity to carry 20 cargo trucks.

It is with confidence that the deployment of the vessels will be enough to make sure that cargo trucks can smoothly unload their cargo at the port and resolve the issue of queueing.

For its part, to address the lack of infrastructure and to increase safety at the port, PPA has recently opened two (2) additional roro ramps, to increase the number from the current six (6) to eight (8) ramps.

To increase the efficiency in Matnog Port, the MARINA, PPA and PCG will immediately implement the following:

1. PPA shall implement a maximum of three hours of port stay rule (including maneuvering time).

This helps define the average turnaround time of vessels, which is at least eight (8) hours during normal sea and weather conditions;

2. MARINA shall advise ships to complete three (3) ships calls per day;

3. The PPA will open all ramps. There are seven (7) ramps for regular vessels and one (1) specialized ramp for Fast Cat; and

4. PCG to be the last to board for the conduct of clearance of vessel prior to scheduled departure. This will also help enforce 3-hour maximum stay rule.

Aside from the above actions currently being undertaken by the maritime agencies, the following are also proposed for the approval of DOTr Secretary Arthur P. Tugade:

1. Ship calls shall be increased based on the maximum shipping capacity in Matnog Port. If maximum 3 hours is implemented, one (1) regular ramp can accommodate eight (8) ship calls within 24 hours. Meanwhile, one (1) specialized ramp for the Fast Cat ship will be accommodating three (3) ship calls per day. Hence, the agencies can enforce 59 ship calls per day at normal sea and weather

2. MARINA must provide at least 18 ships to maximize the shipping capacity of Matnog Port, with due consideration to the safety of navigation along the route;

3. Alternate ports shall be opened to divert other rolling cargoes. The PPA has initially identified Bulan and Castilla Ports as possible alternate ports;

4. The PPA shall implement the Terminal Appointment Booking System;

5. PPA to study the construction of a dry port/truck holding facility to decongest the highway; and

6. PPA to study the expansion of the port through reclamation.

On the issue of “fixing” and corruption that has also compounded the problem of cargo truck queuing, it must be emphasized that this involves queuing of cargo trucks outside the port premises. The Sorsogon Provincial Police is tasked to implement the First In, First Out (FIFO) policy and to maintain orderly and efficient queuing of rolling cargoes along the highway. Hence, the policy and occurrences outside the port premises are beyond the control of the DOTr maritime sector agencies.

It must be noted that queuing of vehicles does not occur inside the port. All rolling cargoes allowed entry to the port have already secured slots on board vessels prior to entry.

To prevent corruption, in addition to introducing the procedure of issuing priority numbers to maintain orderly queuing, the PPA has deployed additional operations personnel and deployed additional Port Police Officers.

As an additional precautionary measure, the PPA has been engaging the public through an active information dissemination campaign on the process flow, as well as the applicable fees of the PPA and the shipping lines. Notices to the Public have been posted along the highway, within the Matnog Terminal Complex, and the port premises.

Port Police personnel have been directed to remove unauthorized persons from the port premises.

With these measures, and the intensified cooperation between the port users, trucking companies, shipping companies, the PPA, PCG, and MARINA, we are confident that congestion along the highway to Port of Matnog will be alleviated, if not finally be resolved.

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