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MICT readies for busy trade season in Q4

The Manila International Container Terminal (MICT), the flagship operation of global port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) achieved record volume and productivity with its first year-to-date two million twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) volume of cargos moved last December.

“Yard utilization at the terminal remains optimal. The mechanisms we developed together with the Philippine government and other stakeholders in 2014 continue to work, resulting in the easing of traffic in Metro Manila despite inadequate trade infrastructure,” Christian Gonzalez, ICTSI senior vice president and head of Asia Pacific region and MICT, said.

As of May, yard utilization at the MICT remained at 61 percent or well below the 70 percent ideal percentage.

During the same month, average crane productivity hovered at 32 moves per hour. These numbers underscore the terminal’s strong performance despite the uptick in container volume as global trade continues to rebound.

“Global container traffic is slowly recovering. As a matter of fact, Southeast Asia and North America have posted the highest average growth at seven percent during the final quarter of last year. While we remain optimistic that this trend will continue, I am confident that we will be able to keep up with the pace and accommodate the projected increase,” he adds.

Last year, the MICT achieved a milestone with its first year-to-date two millionth TEU move, triggering a multi-billion peso capacity improvement commitment with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) that requires ICTSI to commission five neo-Panamax quay cranes, 12 reach stackers, and build two new berths by 2020.

The expansion and capacity improvement will enable the MICT to service bigger ships, which is now becoming the trend in global container trade.

“We are entering the era of larger ships. We need to adapt and stay competitive by enhancing our capabilities, which is something that we have already started,” added Gonzalez.

As the country enters the second half of the fiscal year, volume is expected to surge, with imports starting to arrive ahead of the holiday season.

Historical data from the PPA also show consistent MICT volume growth since 2015, with productivity and utilization staying proportionally healthy all throughout.

“Port congestion is a challenge every major and busy port in the world has to contend with. The congestion problem in the Port of Manila in 2014 provided us with the opportunity to further improve our operations at the MICT. We resolved the issue by putting in place new technologies that would not only upgrade the terminal, but would make MICT a sustainable business factoring in the quality of life of our hinterland communities and immediate environs. We’ve engaged all port stakeholders in resolving the issue,” Gonzalez said.

In Shanghai, China, adverse weather condition, shift in shipping alliances, and higher-than-usual volumes have crippled operations at Yangshan Port. Back in April, the queue outside the port reached up to 100 ships as the average waiting time at the berth reached 18.2 hours. Despite the difference in the nature of the cause, the recent port congestion in Yangshan was comparably similar to the Manila port congestion in 2014.

“In 2014, the root cause of the port congestion was the truck ban that limited truck movement in the city’s major thoroughfares. We simply couldn’t get the containers out of the terminal. Unlike the situation in Yangshan, our problem back then was something we could control. We needed to think outside of the dock – and that’s how we came up with the Terminal Appointment Booking System (TABS). We looked for a solution to the problem outside the port,” he said.

Under TABS, trucks arrive at the terminal according to the booked slot schedule, which the system evenly distributes throughout the day. This system helped reduce the number of trucks on the road without limiting the movement of cargo.

The adoption of the online booking system, combined with more productive city regulations, recent clearing of roads surrounding the port, and the opening of the service roads of a major thoroughfare, Roxas Boulveard, to truck traffic, has resulted in improved trade flow in and out of the port.

To further ease container movement and ensure seamless operations at the MICT, ICTSI implemented capacity and facility upgrades. Terminal utilization improved since 2015 after the completion of Yard 7, which increased the terminal’s capacity by 18 percent from 2.5 million to 2.75 million TEUs. Yard 7 is part of MICT’s P5 billion expansion project.

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