Cargo traffic at ports busier in 2023

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Cargo and container traffic at local ports is expected to approach prepandemic levels by next year with borders further reopening and more trade activities resuming.

Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago told reporters they were projecting about a 7-percent to 8-percent growth in both cargo throughput and container traffic in 2023.

To achieve prepandemic levels, the cargo and container volume must reach 266.17 million metric tons (MT) and 7.87 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

From January to September, PPA data showed that cargo throughput was at 197.57 million MT, a 1.28-percent decline from 200.16 million MT in the same period a year ago.

Container traffic, meanwhile, grew by 7 percent to 5.88 million TEUs in the first three quarters from the previous year’s 5.49 million TEUs.

Most of the cargo and containers passed through ports in Manila and North Luzon.

He said shipping was driven mainly by imports since the country is a consumption-based economy. “There are a lot of products not available locally for whatever reason. You need to import that,” he said.

Santiago said there was a container imbalance at the moment as activities related to importing outpaced exporting, as evidenced by the country’s trade deficit.

“We have so many empties that we really need to ship out. The only way that you can actually address that is by increasing your exports so they can be used or they get shipped out as a clean up measure by the shipping lines,” he explained.

Container imbalance, resulting in the lack of available vessels, has been cited as one of the reasons for recent shipping delays.

As for passenger traffic, Santiago is projecting a growth of 20 percent to 25 percent in 2023 due to revenge travel.

It grew by 184 percent to 43.77 million in the nine-month period from 15.41 million a year ago. By year-end, the figure is anticipated to reach 57 million.

“Everybody just wanted to get out,” he said, noting the recent surge in travel to Eastern Visayas.

Santiago said travelers were also resorting to sea travels given that other destinations may not be accessible via airplane.

With the anticipated growth in passenger volume, Santiago said they would inaugurate terminals in Mindoro and Zamboanga next year.

“We are building mega terminals now for sea travel, especially along the nautical highway,” he said.

The PPA official said cruise ships were expected to return next year, with one scheduled for Palawan in March. The last time a cruise ship sailed was during the first quarter of 2020, or prior to the pandemic. INQ

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