Manila-based shipping firm starts trial sail of expanded route to Sulawesi

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 June) – Manila-based Reefer Express Lines commenced the trial sail of the “expanded” Mindanao-North Sulawesi shipping route last June 16, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) assistant secretary Romeo Montenegro confirmed on Wednesday.

Reefer Express Lines’ route: Ho Chi Minh-Bitung-Ternate-Davao-General Santos

The Davao City-General Santos City-Bitung, Indonesia (D/GB) shipping route, inaugurated by President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo on April 30, 2017, had been expanded to cover Ho Chi Minh Port, Vietnam.

Montenegro told MindaNews that the 290-TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) vessel departed Ho Chi Minh Port in Vietnam last Sunday, will call on a port in Bitung on July 2, will pass by Ternate, Indonesia on July 4, and will arrive at the Kudos Port in Davao City on July 6. The vessel, on its second sail, will call port in General Santos City.

The resumption of the operation of the shipping service came more than two years after the 500-TEU M/V Super Shuttle RORO 12, owned by Cebu-based Asian Marine Transport Corp., seized operation immediately after its maiden voyage apparently due to lack of cargo.

A press release issued by the MinDA quoted Felix Ishizuka, Reefer Expresss Lines chief executive officer, as saying that they hope to “help create more trading activities in the sub-region by providing the right service” with the resumption of the shipping service.

It said the expanded D/GB route would cut travel period to less than three days between Davao and Bitung as compared to Manila-Bitung route which takes three to five weeks.

Initial list of export goods from Davao includes fresh fruits, activated carbon, automotive battery, food stuffs, and animal feeds, it added.

According to a briefer emailed to MindaNews on January 16, the shipping company representatives from Reefer Express Lines met with MinDA officials September last year to discuss plans of servicing this new route in addition to their existing Davao to Middle East route.

It said Reefer Express Lines, which utilizes a 200-TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) conventional vessel that can accommodate both dry and frozen cargos, also plans to expand to Japan next year to bring premium banana exports from Mindanao to the Japanese market.

An initial all-in rate was estimated at $1,700, the briefer added.

It said various local and national firms are waiting for the resumption of the operations of this service as they are considering to utilize the route for their shipments.

“Opening up this route will provide greater access for local businessmen to engage in international trade, as well as stimulate other areas of development such as a joint tourism promotion, establishment of direct air linkages, and increase in investment inflows, among others,” it said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)