SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Containerized cargo shipments from various export and import transactions here unexpectedly increased in the first quarter of this year even as the Port of Subic registered fewer ship calls as a result of trade restrictions under the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figures from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority’s Seaport Department indicated that only 313 foreign ships visited Subic from January to March this year, compared to 355 in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020, or a drop of 12%, while only 157 domestic ships arrived in the same period, compared to 233 in 2020, or a 33% decline.
On the other hand, three cruise ships arrived here in Q1 2020 despite the onset of the pandemic in March, but there was not any cruise liner that visited this year, noted SBMA Seaport department manager Jerome Martinez.
The decrease in ships calls, however, has unexpectedly been accompanied by a 10% increase in containerized cargo volume, which included import, export, transshipment, local empty in/out, and load-unload transactions.
Martinez said Subic port recorded a total of container throughput of 60,759 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in Q1 2021, compared to 55,065 TEUs in Q1 2020. Of these, 26,441 TEUs accounted for importations, which was 5% higher than the 25,296 TEUs in Q1 2020, while 11,775 TEUs comprised exportations, which was 25% more than the 9,408 TEUs in the first quarter last year.
Martinez said the importation of raw materials from foreign countries, and the exportation of finished products like tires and veneer lumber to Japan largely helped increase Subic’s container cargo volume.
On the other hand, non-containerized or bulk cargo suffered a 23% decrease in volume this year. From January to March, there were only 1.63 million metric tons (MTs) of goods that entered Subic, compared to 2.11 million MTs that arrived in Q1 2020.
In terms of port revenue, Martinez also said that collections from vessel charges suffered a 12% decrease, with only P39,395,141 in Q1 2021, compared to P44,653,054 last year.
Likewise, revenue from cargo charges also dropped to P83,625,374 this year from P84,651,801 in Q1 2020. The decrease, Martinez explained, was due to a decline in foreign bulk cargoes, motor tankers and container ships call.
Still, the SBMA Seaport Department was able to generate a total of P324.93 million in revenues in the first quarter of 2021. This was 25% higher than the revenue collected in the same period last year.
The growth was attributed to the upturn in cargo handling services and variable fees, such as warehousing, processing, leases and rentals, and SBMA shares.
Martinez said that while the current health crisis adversely affects the shipping industry, the SBMA took the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to discover and implement better systems and more efficient processes in transacting business.
He added that the SBMA Seaport Department is now streamlining operational, organizational and business processes to ensure port efficiency, quality and profitability as the pandemic opened up new business opportunities like crew-change and vessel lay-up.