The long slumbering Port of San Fernando in La Union, utilized mainly by rice, coal and fertilizer shippers, will soon become a hub for the fast, safe, cost-efficient and convenient movement of containerized cargoes in Region I.
Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez said this would soon become a reality with the scheduled maiden voyage of a containerized vessel to the Port of San Fernando by the end of this month.
Alvarez disclosed that the introduction of a container system in the Port of San Fernando was conceived way back in the early 1990s when big companies like Bacnotan Cement, San Miguel Corporation and Philipps Mining expressed interest to avail themselves of the system.
The project, however, was indefinitely shelved when the proponents could not find funding sources to upgrade the structural foundation of the Port of San Fernando piers which could only support bulk and break bulk shipments but not those in container vans.
But the present stewards of the Bureau of Customs found a way to overcome the structural limitations of the Port thru the simple expedient of using a mother vessel to collect all Region 1 – bound containerized shipments from the Port of Manila and then have those transshipped to San Fernando with the help of smaller containerized feeder vessels.
Alvarez said smaller vessels would naturally require smaller equipment to conduct loading and discharging operations.
To jumpstart the maiden voyage, the Poro Point Industrial Corporation (which owns a 25-year contract as exclusive cargo handler at the pier) has offered a reduced arrastre and wharfage dues, a wide container yard to accomodate 1000 TEUs at any given day, a provision for reefer containers, dangerous cargo area, stalag for motor vehicles and clearer traffic for haulers and other cargo trucks.
The Poro Point Management Corporation (the management arm of the Bases Conversion Development Authority for the Poro Point Free Port Zone), for its part offered, a 24/7 secured 10,000 sq. m. adjacent lot as holding area and Customs examination area.
Alvarez said the containerized vessels’ schedule was initially set at 3 times a week.
“The new regime of containerization in the Port of San Fernando,” added Alvarez,” is expected to enhance Region 1’s attractiveness to investors and thus create opportunities for enhanced job creation that will jumpstart economic activities in the area.”
Quoting from a report submitted by Port of San Fernando District Collector Fidel Villanueva, Alvarez said big locators at the Poro Point Freeport like the Thunderbird Pilipinas Resorts & Hotel and Casino, LATIMCO, and the new multi-million Mama Sita Corp., manufacturer of the world renowned food condiment of the Reyes Group of Companies, were all excited to have their containerized cargoes transshipped directly to Poro Point. Even balikbayans and OFWs from the region numbering tens of thousands – most of whom are based in the USA, Hongkong, Taiwan, Korea and the Middle East – have started requesting for “door-to-door” rates that would be charged by local forwarders, believing that they would be cheaper than the those presently being charged by Manila-based forwarders.
“The project,” according to Alvarez, “enjoys the support of Governor Amado Espino and Vice-Governor Ferdie Calimlim of Pangasinan, Governor Manoling Ortega of La Union, former Deputy Speaker Eric Singson and the regional officials of the National Economic Development Authority, Department of Trade and Department of Tourism.”