Davao-Bitung pact for RoRo vessel route inked

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 17 November)—A roll-on roll-off (RoRo) vessel will start servicing this city and Bitung in Indonesia hopefully early next year after officials formally inked Friday the memorandum of cooperation connecting the two seaports.

The parties signed the agreement at the sideline of the two-day Davao Investment Conference here.

Among the signatories were Dionisio Pacional, secretary general of the North Sulawesi-Mindanao Business Council; Daniel Pesik, chairperson of the North Minahasa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.; Malou Monteverde, chairperson of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.; and Paul Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of the Super Shuttle RORO.

Enrique Castillo, president of the Supply Chain Management of the Philippines, sent his representative to the signing ceremony.

Monteverde said they are now preparing the Customs-Immigration-Quarantine-Security station at the Sasa Wharf here to service the foreign route.

The Super Shuttle, a Cebu-based company that operates nationwide, committed to initially service the Davao-Bitung route at least once a week starting early next year.

Rodriguez said that with the Indonesians’ commitment to use the channel for importation, the Super Shuttle is ready to start anytime as soon as all the requirements are completed.

He told reporters that the company will deploy its RoRo cargo ferry, which is a medium-sized vessel with a capacity of 200 twenty-foot equivalent units.

Bitung, an international seaport in Indonesia, will import consumer goods, construction materials, and house wares among others that are mostly from China, Rodriguez said.

He noted that China will make Davao as a transshipment point to Indonesia, noting that the new route will shorten the transit time from 10 days to one-and-a-half day.

The city is 350 nautical miles from Bitung, according to the Research Education and Institutional Development Foundation (REID) that conducted the study on the connectivity of the two regions.

Rodriguez said that Bitung will export products coming from factories mostly owned by Filipino businessmen and agricultural products that are competitive in the market.

With a total of 25 RoRo vessels plying the domestic waters, the Super Shuttle began the Manila-Cebu-Davao-General Santos route three weeks ago.

But the Davao-Bitung route will be the first international trip for Super Shuttle after the company diversified from car dealership in the 80s, Rodriguez’s son, Paolo, told reporters.

The younger Rodriguez, Supper Shuttle vice president for operations, said the company is in the process of negotiating with some shippers although they are still studying the cost that will be charged between the two points.

He said the new route is good for Davao’s economy, citing that Eastern Indonesia has a population of about 100 million.

In a presentation at the conference, Dr. Enrico L. Basilio, REID Foundation president, said that North Sulawesi’s top exports to the Philippines in 2010 were worth U$6,844,728.42.

These commodities include crude coconut oil, copra, desiccated coconut, crude palm oil, coconut charcoal and frozen fish.

On the other hand, North Sulawesi’s top imports from the Philippines in 2010 include capital goods, raw materials and consumption goods worth U$147,932,133.56.

Basilio said there are Philippine companies operating in North Sulawesi consisting of PT Sinar Purefoods International, PT International Alliance Food Indonesia, PT Samudera Sentosa, PT Ivanda Mardi Jaya, PT Rimar Mutiara Samudera Indonesia, PT RD Pasifik International, PT Paniki Jaya, and PT Pathemaang Raya.

He said using the RoRo is economically beneficial for traders as it is faster, cheaper and better than conventional shipping. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)