Cheap air travel stalls ferry passenger growth
The number of passengers traveling by sea reaches 49.85 million in 2012, just 0.74% higher than the 49.48 million recorded in 2011, government data show

SHIFT TO BUDGET AIRLINES. Ferry passenger growth turns flat in 2012 as more and more travelers prefer to fly. In this photo, passengers look out from a shipping vessel at north harbour in Manila. Image courtesy of AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Cheap and faster air travel and a modest increase in the volume of cargo shipped in the country contributed to the flat growth in the number of passengers taking ferries, according to the state-run Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

Data released by PPA Tuesday, February 12 showed that the number of passengers traveling by sea reached 49.85 million in 2012, just 0.74% higher than the 49.48 million recorded in 2011.

The number of domestic passengers inched up 0.73% to 49.79 million in 2012, while foreign passengers increased 1.85% to 51,381.

“Passenger volume still reflects the impact of competition posed by airlines offering budget fares,” PPA stated in a report.

Competition from airlines

The agency cited a continuing shift among domestic travelers from sea to air transport due to the “fare war” among low cost carriers, led by Cebu Pacific, AirAsia Philippines, Air Philippines, Seair and Zest Airways.

PPA added that occasional stoppage of operations of some vessels and trip cancellations due to inclement weather also affected passenger numbers in 2012.

Higher cargo volume

The increase in cargo volume was also a factor.

PPA reported that cargo volume shipped in and out of the Philippines rose to 181.49 million metric tons in 2012, higher than the 178.28 million metric tons in 2011.

Foreign cargo shipped in and out of the Philippines climbed 3.11% to 107.35 million metric tons from 104.1 million metric tons, while cargo moved within the country was almost unchanged at 74.14 million metric tons from 74.17 million metric tons in 2011.

The agency said there was a significant increase in cargo in 17 port management offices (PMOs). Puerto Princesa recorded the highest increase with 47.16%, followed by San Fernando with 26.78%.

PPA said that the rise was enough to counter the decline in other PMOs, including a 33.65% drop in throughput in Iloilo, a 23.95% decline in South Harbor, and a 13.36% drop in Ormoc.

The huge decline in throughput in Iloilo was traced to the closure of the Semirara wharf from May to September 2012. Iloilo serves as a hub for the shipment of coal to China.

PPA also reported that Manila International Container Terminal remained the country’s main international sea gateway as it accounted for 11% of the total cargo volume with 19.96 million metric tons.

In terms of containerized cargo, PPA said that volume increased by 5.2% to 5.19 million twenty-foot equivalent units in 2012. The 2011 figure was 4.93 million. –

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