SBMA bullish over Subic seaborne trade

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SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is expecting a stronger position in regional seaborne trade this year following the maiden port call here last Wednesday of the shipping giant Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), as well as the revived port visit of the Taiwanese shipping line Wan Hai.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the weekly port calls here of MSC, the world’s largest shipping company in terms of capacity, will further boost Subic’s trade capacity, which already generated US$1.58 billion in imports and US$1.03 billion in exports last year.

Subic Bay shipping industry stakeholders welcome the arrival of MSC, the world’s largest shipping line to the Subic Bay Freeport.

“My dream for the Subic Bay Freeport is for it to be among the top 50 biggest ports like Shanghai or Singapore. The fact that MSC, which is now the world’s largest container shipping line, chose Subic to be in its trade route not only gives Subic access to the world and vice versa, but also brings us one more step closer to that goal,” Eisma said. 

She added that this year, the SBMA aims to generate an import value of US$1.77 billion and export value of US$1.42 billion, as the global economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic begin easing down.

MSC, which operates in all major ports in the world, began its Subic schedule to expand its Seahorse Service loop in Southeast Asia with the voyage of the MSC Sotiria III to Subic on Feb. 23. The 2,475-TEU container ship arrived at Subic’s New Container Terminal after a swing to the port of Manila on Feb. 21. 

The maiden port call was attended by MSC general manager Pankaj Patki, SBMA Senior Deputy Administrator for Operations Ronnie Yambao, Subic Bay International Terminal Corp. (SBITC) CEO Justin C. Tolentino, and representatives of various shipping and logistics agencies and clientele. 

Patki said the MSC Seahorse Service trade loop will call on Subic on a weekly basis with three container ships on rotation to provide comprehensive port coverage within Asia. 

“MSC feels that there is a huge potential for growth, and we would like to cater to customers in this region who currently have had to travel all the way to Manila to load their cargoes,” Patki said, adding that more ship calls in Subic will be established in the near future. 

The MSC Seahorse Service trade loop includes Tanjung Pelepas, Singapore, Manila, Subic, Kaohsiung, Vung Tau and then back to Tanjung Pelepas. Singapore and Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia both serve as major transshipment hubs for the Swiss shipping line and connect the rest of the Asian trade loop to Western and European trade services. 

SBMA’s Yambao, meanwhile, pointed out that MSC is the 25th shipping line to service the port of Subic.“This is an important milestone for Subic Bay and the shipping industry in general because it is an opportunity for the Freeport to be known globally in terms of logistics capability,” he said.
Yambao added the MSC is expected to service the needs of business locators not only in Subic, but also in Clark, Bataan and the rest of the economic zones in north Luzon. 

MSC’s arrival came after the return of Wan Hai Lines, a Taiwanese company which previously cancelled its port rotation here due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It recently reopened its Subic Express Service (SES) route that includes Shekou, Subic, Batangas, Manila, Cebu, Taichung, Kaohsiung, and Hong Kong. 

The port of Subic currently has a container cargo capacity to 600,000 TEUs and also caters to different types of cargo like grain, dry bulk, and oil and petroleum. 

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 2021 report indicated the “predominance of Asia as a leading maritime freight area.” It said that in 2020, Asian ports loaded around 4.4 billion tons of goods, or over 41.3% of total goods loaded in ports worldwide, and received 7.0 billion tons, or 65.5% of total goods discharged worldwide.