Cargo container throughput from export and import transactions in the Subic Bay Freeport unexpectedly increased in the first quarter of this year, although fewer ships called here due to trade slowdown amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), 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 percent, while 157 domestic ships arrived in the same period, a 33-percent decrease from 233 in Q1 2020.
The pandemic has also reduced cruise ship visits to zero this year, compared to three in the first quarter last year.
SBMA Seaport department manager Jerome Martinez said, however, that a 10-percent increase in containerized cargo volume, which included import, export, transshipment, local empty in/out, and load-unload transactions, had unexpectedly accompanied the decline in ship calls.
He said his department recorded total 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 percent higher than the 25,296 TEUs in Q1 2020, while 11,775 TEUs comprised exportations, which was 25 percent more than the 9,408 TEUs 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-percent decrease in volume this year. Martinez said that there were only 1.63 million metric tons of goods that entered Subic in Q1 2021, compared to 2.11 million MTs last year.
In terms of port revenue, Subic’s collections from vessel charges suffered a 12-percent 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, Martinez said the SBMA Seaport Department was able to generate revenue of P324.93 million in the first quarter, which was 25 percent higher than that 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.