By Ayen Infante
08/26/2009 [ tribune.net.ph ]
US-based Atlas Shippers International Inc., one of the three biggest door-to-door cargo forwarders in the country, is setting up its northern Luzon hub operations in Subic Bay in its bid to corner a bigger chunk of the billion-peso business on "balikbayan" boxes.
A 40-foot cargo container that holds 420 balikbayan boxes took off from the Atlas branch in Covina, California on June 24, and arrived here last July 15. This was the first shipment of the firm that passed through Subic.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza said the business sector is now taking notice of the advantages of using the Subic Port, which boasts of two container terminals with a combined capacity of 600,000 20-foot equivalent units.
He said SBMA is also positioning Subic Bay as a maritime gateway for Luzon and a prime logistics hub for Southeast Asia.
Atlas president Joel Longares said the company’s cargo load, which come from branches in Australia, Hong Kong, Italy and the United States, will peak at about 30 containers per month.
He said Atlas will hire about 50 employees for its Subic hub, where they will also install cargo sorting equipment.
Atlas currently has a warehouse in Las Piñas City, which Longares said would still be maintained for their Southern Luzon operations.
He said the first container that went through Subic will be a "test run" to determine the viability of this port as the sole discharging point for Luzon.
"We’ll have to determine if we could save money this way," said Longares, explaining that boxes for delivery to Southern Luzon will be hauled by truck from the Freeport to Atlas’ warehouse in Las Piñas.
He said to offset trucking costs, the company will be counting on tax incentives to be provided for the project, lower tariff rates, complete support facilities and infrastructures, strategic location made more accessible by the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, and faster document processing.
Longares said the balikbayan box is a billion-peso industry "with much room for growth."
He said with Subic as hub of operations, the company is seen growing significantly, and could even expand to service outbound cargoes.
The Subic Freeport, through its port modernization program, has developed a wide range of cargo-handling services to meet President Arroyo’s mandate to establish the Subic-Clark corridor as a mega-logistics and service hub in Southeast Asia.
The 300,000-TEU NCT-1 is operated by the Subic Bay International Terminals Corp., a subsidiary of the International Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), which is a leading player in global maritime services and port operations.