Food cargo stuck at Manila port due to coronavirus lockdown – ICTSI

MANILA, Philippines– Enrique Razon Jr's International Container Terminal Services Incorporated (ICTSI) appealed to the coronavirus inter-agency task force to facilitate the smooth flow of goods, as cargo pile up at the Manila port due to the lockdown.

In a letter addressed to shippers dated March 27, ICTSI executive vice president Christian Gonalez said there are over 36,000 shipments at the port.

"Unfortunately, we have now come to a point where it is becoming impossible to operate in an efficient manner," ICTSI said.

"We understand that it is unfeasible for some and many businesses have been temporarily shut down, but without the support of everyone that is able to open, we will come to a point when efficient operations will no longer be feasible."

The company operates the Manila International Container Terminal, the country's largest international container port. (READ: Virus hits shipping, spreading global economic strain)

ICTSI asked consignees with refrigerated cargo to withdraw them immediately. 

From March 1 to 26, there were 8,201 containers cleared for release. But many are still sitting in the terminal, with over 850 of them refrigerated containers.

The implementation of the lockdown has confused both companies and local governments, resulting in delayed transfers of goods. (READ: Meat shortage looms in April if checkpoint issues persist)

ICTSI offered its off-site facilities in Laguna, Bulacan, and Cavite for companies which are unable to bring their cargo to their own facilities due to the lockdown.

The port operator likewise asked the government to condemn or transfer overstaying containers that were supposed to be out of the terminal from 2018 or earlier.

"We must act on this after years of debate," ICTSI said.

In a statement on Monday, March 30, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said it is already coordinating with ICTSI to move the unclaimed containers.

The BOC said 2,000 overstaying and abandoned containers have been transferred to Pacific Roadlink Container Incorporated, while another 2,000 containers will be transferred to Manila North Harbour Port Incorporated.

"The bureau is also working to dispose of these overstaying containers through donation or public auction," added the BOC.

A joint memorandum of agreement is being drafted as well to address the matter. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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