I first took notice of a development when in my travels to Tubod, Maranding, Pagadian and Ozamis I saw big boulders were being pushed into the sea on a beach between Kolambugan and Tubod in Lanao del Norte. If my memory serves me right it was about 1996 or early 1997. The filling took long, I even thought the developer might not be too interested until I realized they were building a causeway and they were waiting for the boulders to settle. Soon a port was taking shape but there were no ferries yet and it looked to me the Tamula Shipping that dominated Panguil Bay then was just sailing serenely on and unconcerned.

While the port was taking shape I already saw Rural Transit buses rolling to Tubod port to take the Millennium LCT to Silanga port in Tangub, Misamis Occidental that will take them on the way to Liloy, Zamboanga del Norte. The competition among buses then in Lanao and Zamboanga peninsula was beginning to heat up. With the new port I thought that whoever the operator will be will have an edge over Tamula Shipping as they will be sailing a much shorter route and along calmer waters.

Soon double-ended ROROs arrived and it was a sight, it was electrifying as people were not used to double-ended ROROs and it was a gaudy sight compared to the dowdy cruisers of Tamula Shipping. I learned that the operator was Daima Shipping Lines. I knew from the start that Tamula Shipping will be in for a very tough and probably a losing fight as their cruisers can’t take in buses and other vehicles and the port they are using which was Kolambugan port was not RORO-capable and stands very tall for the small ferries.

Daima Shipping Lines ©Mark Ocul

It was Millennium Shipping which first perceived the real threat and belatedly and rushing they built their own causeway wharf in Tabigue, just ahead of the new port of Mukas of Daima Shipping. They also built their own wharf in Ozamis. But Daima Shipping had the advantage as their route is shorter and they had the better ROROs. The Millennium LCTs simply can’t match the more modern double-ended ROROs of Daima Shipping especially in comfort as airconditioned accommodations were available in the ferries of the latter and accommodations in the old LCT designs were pretty crude. Belatedly, Millennium Shipping brought over their own double-ended RORO, the Lakbayan Uno but it was slow.

Mukas Port ©GoogleEarth

Taking bus partners, Daima Shipping also bested Millennium Shipping as they had the much more powerful Rural Transit compared to Lillian Transit, the partner of Millennium Shipping. The other bus company, Super 5 of Iligan also patronized Daima Shipping. Because of less traffic, Millennium can’t match the three-times an hour departures of Daima Shipping and soon they were on the way down. By this time they had already abandoned too the Tubod-Silanga route.

Mukas Port vehicle line. ©Mark Ocul

Soon after, the formerly-dominant Tamula Shipping was also in distress. They first abandoned the Ozamis-Kolambugan route and after a few years, they too abandoned their Ozamis-Tubod route. After that their cruisers were just floating in Panguil Bay. It was always a wonder to me why they never tried to have their own ROROs. Maybe the cost of a new wharf is too much for them and using Kolambugan will still result in non-competitiveness as the route distance compared to Daima Shipping is double.

Daima Shipping Lines ascent from 1997 was not all smooth though from 1997. In February 25, 2000, white phosphorus bombs onboard two Super 5 buses exploded while aboard the Daima ferry Our Lady of Mediatrix and the ferry was burned. In the Erap “all-out war” of 2000 Daima was also affected but they helped ferry stranded people from Ozamis to Iligan when fighting cut the Lanao highway and they earned the people’s goodwill for that service. Our Lady of Mediatrix was later repaired and was renamed as the Swallow-II.

Our Lady of Mediatrix ©BBC

The Daima Shipping fleet consists of six ships and they arrived one after the other from 1997. They are the Swallow-I, Swallow-II, Royal Seal, Royal Seal 2, Royal Dolphin and Grand Pelican. All six are double-ended ROROs from Japan. Swallow-I and Swallow-II are sisters ships; Royal Seal and Royal Seal 2 are also sister ships. All six are of the size, capacity and speed of Basic, Short-Distance Ferry-ROROs.

Swallow 2, Swallow 1 and Royal Dolphin ©Mark Ocul

At peak hours when at least five were sailing Daima Shipping can have departures every 15 minutes. That was possible since their transit time is usually only 15-20 minutes. Their ferries cross usually full or near-full of vehicles and passenger load is good since they are the only shipping operator left now in Panguil Bay. There are a lot of passengers crossing the bay that are not bus passengers. This is so because Ozamis City is the commercial and education center of Panguil Bay and also the primary R&R center of the area.

Ironically and sadly, when there was no longer competition and vehicle traffic went up Daima Shipping let three of their ferries to rot in Mukas port. With only three ferries operating the vehicles queue got longer and longer and usually this extends to the outside of the gates even in Mukas. There ferries were also so tired because the sailing hours extended to over 18 hours. Monopoly reared its ugly head in Panguil Bay. For some time now, Daima Shipping had no new ships and it was only recently when they tried to repair some of their moribund ferries.

Daima Ferries ships at Mukas Port ©Mark Ocul

Daima Shipping Lines was lucky they were able to hit the wave of the short-distance ferry ROROs and the crest of the intermodal system of transport. That was the reason for their success. I just hope that they simply do not rest on this good luck and timing and instead try to give to the public the best service that they can.


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