The Philippines’ cargo volume declined by 19 percent in the first half this year due to a significant reduction in cargo handled, according to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
PPA data showed cargo handled in January to June stood at 106.2 million metric tons (MMT), compared with 130 MMT in the same period last year, as the community quarantine during the second quarter had a significant impact both in domestic and international cargo volume.
Domestic cargo volume was down by 15.5 percent to 44 MMT in the first semester, from 52 MMT in the same period last year. Foreign cargo volume declined by 21 percent to 62 MMT in first half as compared to 78.1 MMT last year.
Container traffic handled in January to June dropped 22.6 percent to 2.98 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), from 3.85 million TEUs in the same period last year.
PPA also reported that passenger volume fell by 61 percent to 17.7 million in the first semester, from 45.5 million in the same period last year, due to the suspension of sea transport travel during the community quarantine.
Sea passengers carried in April to June stood at 1.7 million, plummeting from 27.5 million in the second quarter last year.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is now activating crew change hubs to address the global need for fresh crew in ships operated by around 1.5 million seafarers, 378,000 or 25 percent of which are Filipinos.
“This month alone, the DOTr maritime sector was able to open and activate three crew change hubs in the country. These are located at the Port of Manila, Port of Capinpin in Bataan, and today at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. It is my hope for the Philippines to become a major international hub for crew change,” Arthur Tugade, DOTr secretary, said.
Aside from facilitating the transfer of stranded marine personnel off their vessels because of the pandemic, Jay Daniel Santiago, PPA general manager, said crew change hubs in the country are also expected to generate economic activities and revenues in the areas where they are located, with the collection of port dues and charges from ship dockage or anchorage.
“By becoming a crew change capital of the world, we would not only prime up our seafaring and maritime industry. We also expect to boost our hospitality industry,” Santiago said.
In the last four months, a total of 734 ships docked or anchored in the Port of Manila for purposes of crew change. A total of 34,000 seafarers were served, wherein 28,000 seafarers disembarked while 5,800 joined the ships.
For ship turnaround, cargo ships usually stay for about six to 12 hours while cruise ships stay for a week up to a month if they serve as quarantine facilities.