By Denise A. Valdez

CHELSEA Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp. is investing around $34 million (about P1.7 billion) for the acquisition of two new ships this year, which will be used to boost its existing passenger routes and open new ones.

Chelsea President and Chief Executive Officer Chryss Alfonsus V. Damuy said in a mobile message Friday the company received a 67-meter roll-on, roll-off passenger (ropax) vessel in April, which will be deployed for the Cebu-Surigao-Cebu route in July.

“Next month, we will deploy one brand-new ship for the Cebu-Surigao-Cebu (route)… We (also) have a big one coming in November,” he told BusinessWorld.

Mr. Damuy noted one vessel is priced around $14 million (about P720 million), while the other is estimated at $20 million (about P1 billion). No firm plans have been made yet on the route where the 98-meter ship arriving in November will be deployed.

Last year, Chelsea acquired nine new vessels namely: MT Chelsea Providence, MV Trans-Asia 15, MV Trans-Asia 16, MV Trans-Asia 17, MV Trans-Asia 18, MTug Fortis VIII, MTug Fortis IX, MTug Fortis X and MTug Fortis XI.

Mr. Damuy said the fleet expansion is intended to “boost existing routes and (add) new routes.”

Aside from the ropax ships the company is receiving this year, Chelsea is also modifying some of its older ships to be used for existing routes linking Cebu to Cagayan de Oro (CdO), where the listed firm is leading the market.

“We will also deploy two coming from last year which modifications are just about to be completed… (It will be in) July this year. We will deploy (the modified ships) to increase our presence in Cebu-CdO-Cebu,” Mr. Damuy said.

He noted the demand for the Cebu-CdO-Cebu route is increasing, and Chelsea currently holds around 70% of the market with four players in that segment.

“We wanted to ensure our market dominance in that route… We wanted to further dominate,” Mr. Damuy said.

The listed firm led by Davao-based businessman Dennis A. Uy reported a net income of P139 million in the first quarter, up 21% from the same period last year with a bulk of its revenues coming from its shipping business.

Mr. Damuy earlier said the company is allocating the biggest chunk of its capital expenditures this year to boosting its logistics segment, with a P2.5-P3-billion investment for a new warehouse to be built in Taguig City.