By Arra B. Francia,

CEBU-BASED shipping firm Asian Marine Transport Corp. (AMTC) is looking to take advantage of the optimism on the logistics sector by establishing more connections between the Philippines and countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

AMTC Chief Executive Officer Paul Rodriguez said they are eyeing to introduce routes to Vietnam and Thailand in the coming years.

“We’re looking at connecting Vietnam and Thailand in the coming years. In about a year or two, it depends now on how the ASEAN would also welcome us to connect. But we are very bullish that they are also equally excited to have a direct connection with ASEAN countries,” Mr. Rodriguez told BusinessWorld last month at the sidelines of the ASEAN Business Awards where the company won the Priority Integration Logistics Sector Award.

So far, Mr. Rodriguez said they have already started negotiations with Vietnam, noting talks have been “very promising.”

“It’s really sustainable because there’s really a big traffic. It’s just a matter of connecting this, we’re quite optimistic that this will happen very soon,” the executive said.

Incorporated in 1999, AMTC owns and operates the Super Shuttle Ferry, Super Shuttle Roro, and Shuttle Fast Ferry vessels. According to its Web site, the company has an estimated nationwide market share of 35% for containerized cargoes and 80% for rolling cargo. 

The company was the first to use the Batangas port as its hub in 2010. To-date, the company employs a total of 1,080 people, both land- and sea-based. Mr. Rodriguez further noted the company took the lead in connecting Davao-General Santos-Bitung trade route this year.

AMTC’s expansion plans come amid a bullish outlook for the logistics sector as well as the sustained growth of the Philippine economy.

“We are venturing into new areas to connect. We feel that the economy is very good… This will really hasten the progress to the countryside as well as connecting the islands which used to be cut away from the main market, so it’s part of farm-to-market road. So it brings prosperity throughout the country, not just Manila or the big cities but the entire country,” Mr. Rodriguez said. 

Several conglomerates in the country have started venturing into the logistics sector, which businesses see as integral to their development given the archipelagic nature of the Philippines.

Metro Pacific Investments Corp. earlier this year acquired Ace Logistics, while SM Investments Corp. bought an indirect stake in integrated transport solutions provider 2GO Group, Inc. through its parent Negros Navigation Co.