Babak Port is the main port of the island-city of Samal. However, the crossing that has the biggest volume of traffic is the private Mae Wess Port in Caliclic and its counterpart Mae Wess Port in Sasa, Davao. It is also the main RORO connection. Serving that route are LCT Mae Wess III, LCT Mae Wess 4, LCT Nicole I and LCT Nicole II Star Ferry. At peak hours the ferries depart right after unloading and loading. At weekends and holidays, these LCTs are not even enough so long queues of vehicles form. The Davao-Samal bus Island City Express also takes the Mae Wess LCTs.
A close second in passenger traffic but without rolling cargo are the so-many motor boats (about 15) connecting Km. 11 Port to Babak Port. Two or three will leave within an hour and at peak hours the boats will cross Pakiputan Strait even without passengers because the passengers are all on the other side. In hours like these the motor boats leave as soon as they are near-full. Their fares are actually the highest but their patronage remains strong. They have the advantage of being connected to the public market in Sasa, Davao.
The new kid on the block challenging Mae Wess (or C.W. Cole – they are one and the same) is DavSam Link which uses their own port in Panacan called Kudos Trucking Corporation (KTC) Wharf to connect to Babak Port. They have two ROROs, the DavSam I, an LCT and the DavSam II, a true double-ended ferry. Their patronage is not yet as strong as Mae Wess but it is increasing. They do not operate after dark unlike Mae Wess. However, their rolling rates and even the passenger fare is cheaper.
Aside from these northern ports, Samal is also connected from Davao via the old Sta. Ana Port. There are motor boats (about nine in number) that emanate from that port going mainly to Kaputian District and to Talikud Island (here through many boat landing areas). Some of these motor boats just go to Kaputian, some go to both Kaputian and Talikud and some go direct to Talikud Island. Aside from that there are boats going to other landing areas in Samal like the Maxima and Hof Gorei resorts and their motor bancas carry a lot of passengers not destined for their resorts.
Other Davao-Samal links are the motor bancas that emanate from a small landing area near Chevron tanker jetty going to two big resorts (the famous Paradise Island and Blue Jazz). There are also motor bancas that emanate from Waterfront Hotel that connects to several resorts south of Paradise Island. From these resorts one can access the provincial road going north to south in Samal and habal-habals can be waiting as there are no regularly-scheduled vehicles in this road.
Once, there was a connection between Sta. Ana Port and Penaplata Port. This is gone now, driven away when the Island City Express buses came and Penaplata Port became a “port to nowhere”.
There are really a lot of people crossing Pakiputan Strait that divides Davao and Samal. Davao is the main market and supply center of Samal. A lot of people in Samal work or study in Davao. Many government offices are also located in Davao City (aside from the provincial offices) and it is more convenient for Samalenos to transact government business in Davao than go to their provincial capital of Tagum. A lot of tourists also go to the Samal beaches and dive sites and many Davao residents have already bought properties and land in Samal.
One negative note in the RORO connections here are the sky-high rolling rates or the rates charged to the vehicles from motorcycles to trucks. The Davao-Samal distance is very short but per nautical mile the rolling rates here are the highest in the whole country. It got a little lower, however, when DavSam Link entered the scene but actually it is still high and can still be brought down. The rates started very high because Mae Wess was a monopoly before the entry of DavSam Link.
Notwithstanding that, this connection is still bound to grow as the allure of Samal has not yet peaked. Many hope the Samal bridge will be built soon but knowing how slow the government is on projects like theae it might still take twenty years long or maybe a generation’s time. In the meantime, the LCTs and the motor boats will still be indispensable in connecting Samal to Davao.