Shipping lines could be moving out of Manila to Subic or Batangas -- because of higher charges by the Manila North Harbor Port Inc (MNHPI). Well, MNHPI's majority owner is Harbour Centre, the very same company who will get (unless ATI becomes the winning bidder) exclusive deals in five major ports of the Subic Freeport. Does that mean that Subic Bay may no longer be PLSA's alternative port?
From a report by VG Cabuag in the Business Mirror
Shipping lines using the Manila North Harbor are already thinking of diverting their service to other ports near Manila as their relationship with the new operator of the country’s largest domestic port continues to turn sour.
According to an official of Philippine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA), its members are looking at calling in Batangas Port or Subic Bay or both if things turn out for the worse involving the group and Manila North Harbour Port Inc. (MNHPI).
“Some of our members are already thinking of transferring to the nearest port, but we will only do this if all our diplomatic and legal means fail,” the PLSA official said.
Both Batangas and Subic Bay ports are in need of cargo volume as these have many underutilized spaces.
PLSA is opposing the plan of MNHPI, the new company formed to take over the port, of imposing a 5-percent fee on ancillary services, such as bunkering, on the vessel owners.
Bunkering services of a vessel constitute up to 40 percent of shipping services.
Other service providers of a vessel include trucking, water, ship repair and those that deliver food and spare-parts supplies.
“It [5-percent charge on ancillary service] is not a good practice and it is not implemented in other ports,” the PLSA official said.
Two weeks ago, PLSA threatened to sue both the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and MNHPI over the said charge on ancillary services. PLSA said it has already hired a lawyer since the new port operator is bent on charging them for these services.
MNHPI, which still has to take over port operations over the outstanding issues on labor and equipment, is 65-percent owned by Harbour Centre Port Terminals Inc. and 35 percent by Metro Pacific Investments Corp.
Revenues of North Harbor, which has no central passenger-terminal building, mostly come from cargo handling. If the pullout of most of the liner groups pushed through, it will only leave the trampers, or those vessels that have no regular schedule on port of calls.
Earlier in March, PLSA, PPA and MNHPI, after meeting with Metro Pacific Investments Corp. chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, were supposed to sign a tripartite agreement on the said concession fees.
PPA and MNHPI instead released Joint Resolution 01-10 on March 18 which states that the concession fees will still be exacted and will cover all service providers in the passenger-terminal buildings “and/or other facilities which may be put up” at the port.
PLSA said that such clause effectively covers the entire port since MNHPI will have to rehabilitate the entire North Harbor as most of its infrastructure are already dilapidated.
To impose a 5-percent concession fee on bunkering services alone could trigger higher cargo freight rates and passenger fares for vessels using the North Harbor, an official of the Department of Trade and Industry earlier said.