BUSINESSES based in both the Philippines and Indonesia are unable to provide the volume to sustain the newly opened roll-on/roll-off (roro) cargo shipping service in the Celebes Sea, the centuries old sea lane used by Filipino, Muslims and Indonesian traders.
The first trip in April 2017 from Davao City, Philippines with a stopover in General Santos city and on to the international port of Bitung in Indonesia carried only five 20-foot container vans from one flour and animal feeds company.
Davao City branch manager Kim Pancho of the Super Shuttle Roro 2 said there were two other ships that succeeded the launch, witnessed by Philippine President Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. However, the service was shelved after failing to attract more shippers.
'We would be mounting another one this year,' Mr Pancho told Manila's Business Mirror.
THE Indonesian consulate disclosed late last year that a Manado City, Indonesia-based shipping company dispatched the 256-TEU KM Gloria 28 boat to pick up from where the Super Shuttle Roro 2 has left off.
The boat did not call port in General Santos city due to the lack of volume but passed through another port in north Sulawesi and on to Bitung. The shipment was made last October and the cargo consisted of agriculture products and Christmas lights from the Philippines and the return leg from Bitung transported agriculture products and furniture.
Consul General Berlian Napitupulu said a smaller boat would have made a difference for practical reasons instead of the 500 TEU ferry.
He said the Cebu City-based Asian Marine Transport Corp. should either use a smaller boat or revert to the first plan to use the 7,000-tonnage ferry with a capacity of 100 TEU.
With insufficient volume, a shipper would not fully enjoy the promise of cheaper shipping costs that the Davao-General Santos-Bitung direct route offered, from US$2,200 for dry 20-foot container van on the only existing route, the Manila-Jakarta-Bitung route.
The Celebes Sea route cuts down shipping times to one and a half days and offers a cheaper cargo rate of $700.