DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 July) – The M/V Super Shuttle RoRo 12, the vessel serving the Davao-General Santos-Bitung route, has been dormant for two months since its launch last April 30 for failing to meet the desired volume of cargo.
The weekly RoRo service only had its maiden voyage immediately after launching of the new sea route, with President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo around, loaded only with one percent of its 500-TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) total capacity.
Romeo Montenegro, director for Investment Promotion, International Relations and Public Affairs of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), told “Wednesdays’ Habit at Kape” that they cannot set off the vessel for another trip without having sufficient load of at least half of its total cargo capacity.
“The only challenge for now is that when we launched the project, we tapped a rather bigger volume vessel. Malaki talaga si (It’s really big) 500 TEUs, meaning to say we need to come up with 500 20-footer vans, which is so huge a volume,” he said.
Montenegro added the M/V Super Shuttle RoRo 12, operated by Cebu-based Asian Marine Transport Corp., was supposed to leave for Bitung last month but did not push through as they fell short of cargo.
He said they are currently exploring a smaller 100-TEU vessel as alternate vessel just to keep the route busy while waiting for the volume to pick up.
“That’s why part of the options now being worked out is to already explore other possible vessels, for instance, the Super Shuttle which is smaller in volume that can be dispatched for that route. Also, we are working out other possible vessels with the smaller volume and not necessarily RoRo, can be conventional to be able to serve that route, up until such time that we are able to see pick-up of cargo, then again transition towards already deploying big volume vessels,” he said.
Montenegro explained: “What happened after the launch was that the commodities, particularly the front load, have not been consolidated yet, meaning to say we do not have yet the complete volume coming from Mindanao, outbound to North Sulawesi.”
Bitung is in North Sulawesi.
Montenegro added that the backload, or the cargo coming from the Indonesian side going to Mindanao, has already been prepared.
But he said he believes the cargo will pick up eventually.
“Any other related projects and investments of the same category is necessarily expected to operate on a non-revenue generating period, part yun nang capital mo eh (that is part of your capital). You do not expect magpunuan agad (it will be filled up already), as pointed out earlier, LRT (light railway transit) in Manila in 1984 had less than a dozen passengers. Iba na ang situation ngayon (the situation is different now),” he said.
Last June 28, Mindanao Business Council (MBC) chair Vicente T. Lao said they have to “mass market” the RoRo to businessmen and a proper coordination between government and the private sector.
“They should invite businessmen to go to Bitung and Manado to take a look at what they can buy and bring back to Davao because if you do not do that, that vessel will always be empty,” he said.
“Now, you know, if it goes empty for several months it will stop operating because nobody can afford to go on a loss for so long. So, if you really want sustainability there, the chambers of commerce should exert effort to invite businessmen, and maybe encourage to go there,” Lao said.
He suggested the Philippine consular office in Manado to initiate negotiations between Indonesians and Mindanawon businessmen.
“These are the products you can buy from the place and maybe initiate negotiations from the place and this place so the businessmen can sit down and discuss,” he said.
Montenegro added a group of businessmen from Mindanao will hold business mission to Manado next month “as part of the effort to finalize arrangements with Indonesian counterparts for trade activities that will make use of the Davao-GenSsan-Bitung RORO”.
“We have not seen yet the final list but it’s quite a number of already. If it is something that will reach 50 or 60, we will be proposing for a chartered flight with our smaller aircraft,” he said.
He said an 80-seater chartered flight will allow businessmen from both sides to negotiate easily. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)