LISTED PORT operator Asian Terminals, Inc. (ATI) said cargo flow at the Manila South Harbor and Batangas Port is expected to improve by mid-March even as the region grapples with the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19).

In a statement sent to reporters Thursday, the company said: “Manila South Harbor has experienced signs of improvement compared to the latter part of February with vessel calls, especially those from Chinese ports, starting to pick up. Inbound and outbound container flows have likewise (picked up the) pace, with more container inventories recorded at the terminal.”

It said it has also observed a ”positive improvement trend” at the Batangas Port.

It said ports in China have been returning to normal.

ATI said it hopes the trend continues at Manila South Harbor and Batangas Port.

“Contingency measures (are) in place to ensure unimpeded cargo flow and the safety of its stakeholders,” it said.

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) recently said the yard utilization rate at the Port of Manila dropped from 65% average to 50% in February due to the outbreak.

It said cargo ships directly or indirectly from Hong Kong and China represent “about 70%” of all inbound cargo vessels.

PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago said the Port of Manila was just recovering from the Chinese New Year which dampened shipping activity when the coronavirus began to affect cargoes from southern China, including Macau.

ATI reported that it handled more than 310,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) at the Batangas Container Terminal (BCT) in 2019, up 25%.

It said its expansion program for the BCT in 2019 had resulted in “higher capacity and greater efficiency” for port users in the region. — Arjay L. Balinbin