Cargo and other vehicles are pictured aboard the inter-island ro-ro ferry at the port of Dalahican in Lucena, Quezon March 10, 2016. — REUTERS

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

THE FUEL CRISIS makes it more difficult for the national shipping industry to reach pre-pandemic cargo volumes this year, the PhilipPine Liner Shipping Association (PLSA) said.

“It’s always ups and downs. It’s still below 2019. The 2021 numbers didn’t match the 2019 numbers. It’s very difficult,” said PLSA President Mark Matthew F. Parco. Business world in a recent phone interview.

Data from the Philippines Ports Authority (PPA) showed domestic cargo throughput in 2021 reached 96.86 million metric tons (MT), down 7.2% from 104.43 million. MT in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic crisis.

However, last year’s domestic cargo volume was 3.5% higher than the 93.59 million tonnes recorded in 2020.

“We were [initially] hoping 2022 will get us there (pre-pandemic level),” Mr. Parco said.

“But with fuel prices soaring and the war overhanging Ukraine, that’s going to be a problem because if fuel prices go up more, people will have less money to spend, and we’ll still have to pay our utility bills. fuel. So that’s the problem,” he added.

Since the beginning of the year, local prices for petrol, diesel and kerosene have shown a net increase of P16, P26 and P24.10 per litre, respectively. Oil companies are expected to implement a price cut on Tuesday.

Some shipping companies in the country have started increasing their freight charges due to the continued rise in oil prices.

The average increase in transport costs is 25%, according to Mr. Parco. Domestic ship operators are permitted to set their own shipping rates under Republic Act No. 9295.

For his part, the president and CEO of Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp.fficer Chryss Alfonsus V. Damuy said cargo volume “should be better this year.”

“The challenge now is the cost of operation, not just the fuel. For the passenger [business]it may still take some time,” he said in a phone message to Business world.

In a statement last week, Chelsea Logistics said its freight business “continued to recover with a 30% year-on-year increase in revenue to 2.727 billion pesos – already surpassing 2.688 billion pesos. income pesos in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic and the Iffirst containment in March 2020.”

“We are hoping for a further recovery this year as we need to carefully monitor global oil prices as they will certainly negatively impact our margins,” Damuy said.

In a telephone interview, Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. said volumes would increase, “but certainly slower than we hope.”

According to PPA data, export cargo volume reached 70.54 million tons last year, up 17.1% from 60.25 million tons in 2020 and 14.3 % compared to 61.69 million tonnes in 2019.

However, Mr Ortiz-Luis said delays, shipping costs and lack of space for ships are “worsening” due to pandemic-induced disruptions and the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war.