Maasin Port Is An “Anomaly” And So Is The City

Maasin City as a provincial capital of Southern Leyte is an ”anomaly” but this is in no way meant to insult it and its people. But there is no other provincial capital in the country where the capital is the last and furthermost locality. And that becomes a problem for the people of its towns on the other end like San Ricardo and Silago. They would have to spend several hours on the road just to reach their capital should they need a transaction there. And funny, to reach Maasin faster, even public vehicles go back through Bato in the neighboring  Leyte province to take the mountain road that starts at Bontoc town because it is shorter and travel time is faster. Going back, many take the same road too.

Donna Simon

Maasin port by Donna Simon

Maasin port became an anomaly too because of that road. Ferries from Cebu would rather dock in Bato or Hilongos port in Leyte rather than Maasin port and its vehicles and the shuttles (called “boat service” when the ferries are not boats) will also take the Bato to Bontoc road. But the national government through the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) will always give priority to Maasin port because it has the designation as a provincial port even though the de-facto ports of entry now of Southern Leyte are the Hilongos and Bato ports in Leyte province.

Those two mentioned ports were so deadly especially with an extension like shuttle buses for passengers and a shortcut to Bontoc via Bato. The two killed the overnight ferries to Sogod, Liloan and Cabalian (or San Juan) especially those of ill-fated Maypalad Shipping (pun intended). Those ports have no chance as their ferries arrive near noon while ferries In Hilongos and Bato aided by shuttle buses can deliver passengers in those towns before breakfast. And the over-all fare is even lower because land fares are much cheaper than sea fares. Moreover, going to Cebu they would have just to wait for the shuttles instead of taking a local commute to the port and no transfers are needed.

Even Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc. (CSLI) which has been loyally serving Maasin port (it was a bread and butter of the company in its earlier years) cannot increase its frequency to the city as its passengers now are just from Maasin and the towns between Maasin and Bontoc. In rolling cargo, unless they do some sacrifice they cannot match the rates of the ROROs serving Hilongos and Bato because the distance of the two from Cebu is shorter.

There is even no hope now of a fielding a RORO to the ports of Sogod, Liloan and Cabalian because in rates it can never compete with the Hilongos and Bato ROROs whose rates will be much lower because of the much shorter distance. Sogod, Liloan and Cabalian might be a little far but a car or a truck can easily roll to that and the fuel consumed will be much less compared to a RORO rate. Plus the total time will be way shorter. No way they can really win.

I do not think this situation will change in the future because one can’t change geography.  And thus one thing that could have boosted Maasin, that of being a good port of entry is really not around. Maasin could also not be a port of entry from Surigao like in the old past when ports were lacking because it is the farthest locality of Southern Leyte from Surigao.

In my wandering thoughts , I cannot even understand why Maasin became the capital of Southern Leyte when Sogod is the center point of the three “tentacles” of the province – the series of towns to Maasin, the series of towns to Silago and the series of towns to San Ricardo at the tip of Panaon island. Sogod could have been the commercial town of the province but a direct ship to Cebu hampered that, I think. Now, so-many intermodal trucks roam Southern Leyte already.

In the old past, liners from Manila also came to Maasin, Sogod and Cabalian. But those days are long gone now and will never come back again. Intermodal trucks from Manila have already cobbled up many of the cargo to the eastern seaboard of the country so much so that the old great port of Tacloban is diminished now.

And that also diminished Maasin port. Especially since the Palawan Princess of Sulpicio Lines which called on the port before is also gone now. Whatever, long live Maasin!

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Isla Simara of Shogun Shipping Is NOT The First RORO Built By Filipinos

I just wonder about the recklessness and lack of shame of Shogun Shipping in claiming that their Isla Simara, which will be used in connecting Sorsogon and Samar across the San Bernardino Strait is the first RORO built by Filipinos. Do they think Pinoys are so dumb that it will take until the 21st century for them to make their own RORO?  And that they are so “great” that they were the “first” to do it? What a way to try to make themselves good and fall flat on their faces at the same time. One cannot obliterate history by just making some dumb claims.

On the other hand, again, media takes the cake for gullibility, their old weakness. The problem with our local media is they are too fond of “praise releases” and at the same time being too lazy in checking facts as if there is no internet yet or smartphones. That combination is one sure-fire way to spread misinformation on a grand scale. Now, courtesy of their misdeed, a million or so Filipinos will begin to believe the lie that Isla Simara is the first RORO ever built by Pinoys. And like before, i fear that they will too arrogant to make corrections even though it is already obvious that they are wrong in the facts.

MARINA, the Maritime Industry Authority which is the local maritime regulatory body is also truant in not making things clear from the start by not pointing out to Shogun Shipping the inaccuracy of its claims. Why, are they also ignorant of shipping history? They should be the one now that should be pointing out to media and to the general public that one shipping company is trying to hijack a title that belongs to another ship.

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Maharlika II by Mike Baylon of PSSS

The title of being the first RORO built by Filipinos actually belongs to the now-gone Maharlika II which was owned by the Philippine Government but later chartered to the Archipelago Philippine Ferries which maintained her badly and that was why she was plagued by reliability issues. Maharlika II practically spent all her career in the Liloan, Southern Leyte to Lipata, Surigao City route and that is in that route where she actually went down in 2014. Now, Isla Simara will sail in the San Bernardino Strait where the Japan-built sister ship of Maharlika II, the Maharlika I, also of the Government, practically spent her whole career.

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Our Lady of the Philippines 2 Navistar by wandaole of PSSS. One the ROROs of Tri-Star Megalink Corp. built by Filipinos

Isla Simara is late to Maharlika II by a good 35 years since the latter was completed in 1984 for the Liloan-Lipata route (she was actually launched in 1983). In this span of 35 years, Filipinos made a lot of local-built, traditional ROROs especially by Tris-Star Megalink Corp. of Negros. The related Star Building and Ship Repair in Sagay City, Negros Occ. builds the ROROs of Tri-Star Megalink. The Montenegro Shipping Lines Inc. (MSLI) of Batangas recently started their shipbuilding in Lucena City, too and their first own-build RORO, the Santa Carmelita was definitely built ahead of Isla Simara. Even the small RMLC Ferry 2 that was built in Bacacay, Albay and which connects Rapu-rapu island to Legazpi was built ahead of Isla Simara.

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Santa Carmelita by Raymund Lapus of PSSS

And how come the Navotas-built in Pinoy RORO I which is owned by the government through the GOCC DBP Leasing Corp. was forgotten? This should have been the prototype for all the basic, short-distance ferry-ROROs that will be built locally.  She is now chartered by the Jeanalyn Shipping and is connecting Alabat island to Atimonan, Quezon. And in past, in the 1980s, even the defunct Viva Shipping Lines of Batangas and Lucena  tried to build their own ROROs in Quezon.

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Pinoy RORO I. Photo by Jeanalyn Shipping.

Now, also take note that the numerous and common LCTs, which we had been building locally since the end of World War II are also technically ROROs as rolling cargo also roll in and roll out of them and we probably already built well over a hundred of that type in various shipyards all over the country.

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RMLC Ferry 2 by Kenneth Jardenil of PSSS

Isla Simara had another false claim in that they have the longest ramp mounted on a ship. A shipping company in Manila with about 200 vessels pointed out to me they have several barges with ramps longer than that in Isla Simara. And definitely, the good three-piece ramp of Trans-Asia 5 of Trans-Asia Shipping Lines Inc. is longer than theirs. Shogun Shipping can’t be even sure too if the ramps of the big RORO Cargo ships of the Asian Marine Transport Corp. (AMTC) are not longer than theirs.

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Trans-Asia 5 by Mike Baylon of PSSS. Part of its three-piece ramp is folded.

I thought I would be excited by the first RORO of Shogun Shipping. But their bare-faced, false claims leave a bitter taste for I always stand for the truth. But if they want to be famous by twisting facts, then that might not be a good omen for them.

THE LARGE MOTOR BANCAS OF SURIGAO

In the Philippines, Surigao is the greatest haven or center of the Large Motor Banca type of vessel. This is because of the many islands in the area which are not yet well-developed for steel-hulled vessels that cost more to operate aside from needing a much, much bigger investment at the start. Passengers and traders also prefer the Large Motor Banca because of its ubiquity and the type can dock in the most basic of landing areas. Among Large Motor Bancas in the country the Surigao design is the most beautiful and most luxurious in the country.

©Mike Baylon

The Large Motor Bancas of Surigao serve the Dinagat and Siargao islands mainly along with some Surigao City islands especially Nonoc Island and the Bucas Grande Island. These islands have about twenty towns while Nonoc island, though not a town has the biggest nickel mine in the country. Although there are main ports of entry to the islands with steel-hulled ferries to Dinagat and Siargao (and two fastcrafts, too) the Surigao Large Motor Banca continues to thrive as the type goes straight to the individual towns or even to the barrio. There is also a big volume of passengers and cargo as Surigao City is still the main market and recreation area of the islands. From the islands, harvest of the sea and land is carried (like copra and other crops) along with the passengers and going back groceries, dry goods and other supplies are carried. Other uses of the Surigao Large Motor Banca are to serve as supply ships of the mines in the area and also as pilot/tender boats.

Valencia Nickel 4 ©Mike Baylon

There are also Large Motor Bancas that connect San Ricardo town in Southern Leyte to Surigao City. Historically the southern tip of Panaon island has been linked to Surigao City because it is nearer than the Leyte centers of commerce. There is also the longer-distance Cabalian to Surigao City Large Motor Bancas which show that once Surigao Strait and Cabalian Bay is just one economic and demographic area.

Cabalian-Surigao LMB ©Mike Baylon

A further proof of this phenomenon are the Large Motor Bancas that connect Liloan town in Panaon island direct to Dinagat island. Today they also connect to the buses coming from Manila. The buses arrive in the late afternoon and these Large Motor Bancas sail at night. The bancas then from Dinagat will connect to the buses leaving Liloan for Manila in the morning. However, most of the banca passengers will still be locals.

Seahorse Express, a Dinagat-Liloan LMB ©Mike Baylon

These ferries usually have a length of about 20 to 30 meters and a breadth of two to three meters. Some have VIP accommodation on a second deck where the pilot house is also located. That section is reserved for local officials, businessmen, other dignitaries and close relatives. Some have a full second deck and these are the bigger ones. Passenger capacity of 50 is the low end with some reaching up to a hundred. Gross Tonnage can range from 20 to 50 and Net Tonnage from 10 to over 20. Large Motor Bancas here generally have cushioned seats, one of their difference to the Large Motor Bancas of other areas.

Nickel Cruiser 2 ©Mike Baylon
Valencia Nickel 4 ©Mike Baylon
Many of this craft-type have walkways outside the boat and this design affords benches that extend from one side to the other side The walkways not only facilitate movement of passengers but it also eases cargo handling. In fact, that walkway can also serve as additional cargo stowage area.
As bancas this type is wooden-hulled and is usually equipped with bamboo or wooden outriggers with bamboo or fiberglass floats. The outriggers not only balance the boat but with crew as counterweight atop it prevents the banca from keeling over and breaking its outriggers in a strong crosswind and swell.
Libjo Nickel ©Mike Baylon

In strong winds and swells the Large Motor Banca cannot and generally do not sail. So it is not unusual if it is already morning and yet they are still not around the Surigao Boulevard, their main landing area and none is leaving. If weather is fair they start arriving in Surigao before dawn and they leave before lunch with the last leaving just past lunch.

Lineup of Large Motor Bancas at Surigao Blvs. ©Mike Baylon
Engines are generally sourced from surplus trucks but power is adequate and many can beat the normal 11 knots of the steel-hulled Basic Short Distance Ferry.
The downside of the Large Motor Banca is its vulnerability to big waves as attested by the near-yearly capsizing of boats here. Outriggers can break as this part of the country has one of the stronger seas and winds can suddenly shift when rounding the islands especially since we no longer have coast watchers.
Vulnerable or not the utilitarian value of the Large Motor Banca cannot be denied so it looks like for a long time they will still be around and in service in the sea around Surigao.
©Mike Baylon

MILLENNIUM UNO

Millenium Uno ©Mike Baylon
M/V Millennium Uno, a vessel owned by Millennium Shipping of the Floirendos of Davao enjoys a unique distinction — she is the oldest RORO still extant in the Philippines if two old cargo RORO LCT’s (which are technically RORO’s too) are excluded from the count.
It was Naruto Kaikyo Ferry KK of Japan, the first owner of the ship which commissioned Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to build this ferry. She was built in the Shimonoseki yard, completed in October of 1964 and was originally named as the “Uzushio Maru” with the ID IMO 6503250. She was 54.3 meters long over-all with a maximum breadth of 9.6 meters and a speed of 12.5 knots on her twin Daihatsu engines developing 1,100 HP total. Her gross cubic volume then was just 366 in gross tons (GT) with a carrying capacity in weight of 117 DWT. She was first home ported in Kobe, Japan.
Subsequently, she was transferred to Awaji Ferryboat KK in 1974 and then to Sanwa Shoshen KK in 1982 and then to Tokushin KK in 1995. All throughout these transfers she carried the same name “Uzushio Maru”. Also in 1995, she came to the Philippines for Millennium Shipping and she was renamed as the “Millennium Uno”. For all practical purposes she can be considered the “flagship” of the fleet which is now down to two vessels.
In the country, she has long been deployed to the Liloan (Leyte) to Lipata (Surigao City) route which connects Eastern Visayas to Mindanao and which forms part of the original Pan-Philippine Highway (this road network underwent name changes many times over the years). She was one of the earliest ferries in the route together with the ill-fated Maharlika Dos but with the advent of newer, faster and more comfortable ferries she has found less favor especially with the opening of the shorter Lipata-Benit route.
Lack of favor now is also exacerbated with the many times she is not sailing as her engines are no longer strong. She is actually down now to 8.5 knots speed and her crossing time of four and a half hours has become uncomfortable and unacceptable to many especially since the airconditioning system in her single cabin which can accommodate 149 passengers is no longer working. Her net space for cargo, crew and passengers is only 112 NT and most of that is car/cargo deck so she is not really spacious.
Her car/cargo deck can accommodate eight long trucks/buses. However, the load in her route is usually a mix of big and small vehicles with a few motorcycles thrown in. She has ramps bow and stern but she is not a true double-ended RORO. She has the looks though of the ROROs of the early era of RORO design.
As of this writing (December 2014) “Millennium Uno” has voluntarily stopped sailing and that happened in the aftermath of the sinking of “Maharlika Dos” last August 13, 2014. It seems her company fears she might fail an inspection. Sometime before she also did not sail for nearly a year and people thought she was already gone and then she reappeared like a phoenix. Now, if this is her final farewell, nobody can say for sure.
Millenium Uno Bow shot ©Mike Baylon