GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/02 September) — The government is planning to open more shipping routes in the next two years between Mindanao and other key areas within the surging Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chairperson, said negotiations are underway for the establishment of additional shipping routes that will connect major and alternate ports within the sub-regional grouping through the Roll on/Roll off (Ro-Ro) system.
BIMP-EAGA comprises the entire sultanate of Brunei Darussalam; the provinces of East and West Kalimantan, North Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Maluku island chain and Irian Jaya in Eastern Indonesia; the federal states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan in Eastern Malaysia; and, the islands of Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines.
Antonino said MinDA has been facilitating talks involving the private sector, specifically business chambers and related groups.
Among the initial results of the initiative is the opening this week of the shipping services covering the cities of Davao and General Santos in Mindanao as well as Tahuna and Bitung in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, she said.
Antonino said a Ro-Ro shipping route has already been established between Kudat in Sabah, Malaysia and Brooke’s Point in Palawan.
“These are just the start (of our Ro-Ro expansions). We’re working on adding more routes soon,” she said in a press conference at the sidelines of the ongoing 23rd Mindanao Business Conference here.
Antonino said the opening of the Davao-General Santos-Tahuna-Bitung route is mainly a private sector-led initiative, with the business chambers of Davao City and this city leading the efforts.
She said leaders of the two business groups earlier initiated the negotiations with their counterparts in North Sulawesi to boost the trade exchanges between the two areas.
“They made initial arrangements for the shipment and trading of a range of products based on the resources available in these areas,” she said.
A number of companies based in this city earlier signified to ship chicken, frozen fish and other top local products through the new sea route, which will initially be operated by Surabaya, Indonesia-based shipping company PT. Kanaka Lines.
The initial shipment, which will commence this month, will involve 15 20-footer container vans carrying various local products.
“They’re continually discussing additional products that could be catered by the arrangement to ensure that the Ro-Ro vessels plying the route will be filled (to their capacity),” Antonino said.
An agreement to operationalize the shipping service was sealed in Jakarta in May this year by the representatives of PT Kanaka, the North Minahasa Chamber of Commerce of Indonesia, Philippine-based cargo company ARREE Freight Express and the Davao City Chamber of Commerce.
PT Kanaka will provide shipping services to the route with its conventional cargo-type vessel with a 120 TEU capacity. ARREE Freight Express on the other hand will handle the cargo consolidation requirements for the shipping route.
PT. Kanaka Lines scheduled its maiden voyage over the weekend from Bitung and Tahuna to Davao and this city.
The shipping company plans to utilize the route in exporting goods not only from eastern Indonesia but also from the production centers in Surabaya and Java, with the Sasa Port in Davao City serving as the transshipment hub to markets in Europe and China.
The new route was sought by Indonesian exporters as alternative for the longer shipping route that they are currently using in reaching various international markets.
At present, exports from Bitung have to travel to Surabaya and then to Singapore before going to international destinations. (MindaNews)