The Best Places for Ship Spotting In Cebu

Retrieved from the old PSSS Website
written by: Mike Baylon

For ship spotters, there must be a good place where we can take good pictures of ships especially in Cebu which is the center of the maritime industry in the Philippines.

The most common way of ship spotting in the harbour of Cebu is to do a round trip ride on a Metro Ferry vessel to Opon, Lapu-lapu City from Pier 3 of Cebu City. One way trip would just take 15-20 minutes and you can take plenty of pictures from Pier 4 and 5 where the vessels of Roble Shipping Lines, Trans Asia Shipping Lines Inc. and Cebu Ferries Corporation usually dock. You can also take pictures of some cargo ships that are anchored in the channel. It would be much better if you would bring a digital camera that has atleast 5x zoom. The higher the zoom range is, the better.

Tommy 1
Tommy 1 ©Mark Ocul

While riding a Metro Ferry to mactan, you can also take pictures of ships located beyond Pier 5. The Carlos A. Gothong Lines‘ ships are dock in there wharf in Mandaue City. You can also try taking a picture of the Roble Wharf (Pier 7) and the Super Shuttle Ferry Wharf (Pier 8), still located in Mandaue City. Furthermore, try taking pictures of some passenger and cargo ships anchored in this part of the channel. The Ouano Wharf is also visible from here. The only problem in this part is the distance between you and the Ships is way too far. One-way ticket would cost P12.00 and a terminal fee of P1.00 will also be collected. Students and Senior Citizens will just be paying P10.00 and the P1.00 terminal fee. Just show a valid ID for you to enjoy the discounted fare. This style of ship spotting was discovered by some of the PSSS members in Cebu and is always used whenever we conduct a ship spotting activity.


Old Mactan Bridge ©James Gabriel Verallo


Marcelo Fernan Bridge ©James Gabriel Verallo

Another good place to spot is the Marcelo Fernan Bridge (also called the new bridge or the 2nd bridge) which connects the separate islands of the mainland Cebu and Mactan. You can take pictures of ships that would pass under the bridge. This is the only way we can have aerial shots of some specific ships. The only thing in this place is the heat of the sun especially when you go up there at noon time. But on the right side of the bridge, the side that faces the north, there is a small waiting shed-like there and you can have a good shade there while enjoying the cool air.

The authorities already have installed security cameras around the bridge for them to make sure that the place is secure and nobody would attempt to jump and commit suicide there. Also, don’t cross to the other side of the bridge when you are located at the middle part of the bridge or don’t look too much at the people located at the bottom of the bridge because if you do so, authorities will get your attention through their P.A. system installed at the bridge. They will warn you with “Hoy Dong, Ganina raman ka, unsa may plano nimo? Mu-ambak?” (Hey kid, you have been there for quite sometime already, do you have plans to jump?). I already received this warning once, haha!

You can also ship spot at the mini-park located below the bridge. The tips of the bridge both have a mini-park. That is a very nice place to ship spot, an ideal place where you can unwind and be with yourself while waiting for the ship to pass by. This is also a beautiful place for you to have dates with your girlfriend and talk about important matters between you and her (and believe me, the place is such and ideal one! The girl will fall in love with you much more! Just bring a 1.5 Liter coke and some “Chi-chiryas” and presto, you will have a date!). This is also a perfect place where you can just hang out with your friends. Concessionaires and stores are also located on the area. This style of ship spotting was introduced to the group by Mr. Jonathan Bordon.

I have not completed the list of the ships that would pass here during day time but here are some of the ships that will pass under the bridge:

Day Ship Estimated Time
Daily: MV Lite Ferry 11/8 11:15 – 11:30AM
MV Wonderful Stars 4:00 – 4:15PM
MV Theresian Stars 4:00 – 4:30PM
FC Supercat 30/32 5:45 – 6:00AM
11:00 – 11:15AM
4:30 – 4:45PM
MV Beautiful Stars 1:15 – 1:25PM
MV Anstephen 5:30 – 5:45PM

Sundays MV Filipinas Iloilo 12:15 – 12:30NN
MV Filipinas Dapitan 12:15 – 12:30NN

Mondays MV Cebu Ferry 3 8:30 – 8:45AM
5:30 – 5:45PM

Tues/Thurs MV Cebu Ferry 2 8:00 – 8:15AM
5:30 – 5:45PM

Tuesdays MV Filipinas Cebu 12:00 – 12:15NN
MV Filipinas Iligan 12:15 – 12:30NN

Wednesdays MV Cebu Ferry 1 8:30 – 8:45AM
4:30 – 5:00PM

Fridays MV Cebu Ferry 1 12:10 – 12:20NN

Be there atleast 30 minutes before the schedule given above as they will sometimes pass earlier than expected.

Another ideal place to ship spot is in the mouth of South Reclamation Project (SRP). The location is just beside the Malacañan Sa Sugbo and is just a few meters away from Plaza Independencia and Fort San Pedro. You can catch ships that would ply from Mindanao and Bohol from this location. The BRP San Juan and some Cokaliong ships are visible from here. Bigger ships like the Superferry also pass here. And like the mini-park located below the bridge, this is also and ideal place for you to unwind. You can also watch the sunset from this location (bring your friends or your girlfriend here and they’ll probably enjoy the view and the air.) There are no concessionaires or stores on the area so buy your snacks before going there.

SRP SRP Park ©Aristotle Refugio

to SRP
SRP ©Vincent Paul Sanchez

I also have not completed the list of the ships and specific time that they would pass here during day time but here are some of them:

Day Ship Estimated Time
DAILY
FC Ocean Jet 3 Uncertain
FC Ocean Jet 5 Uncertain
FC Ocean Jet 6 Uncertain
FC Ocean Jet 8 Uncertain
FC Supercat 30/32 Uncertain
FC Star Crafts 1 Uncertain
FC Star Crafts 2 Uncertain
FC Seajet 11:15 – 1125AM
MV Jadestar Uncertain
MV Jadestar Tres Uncertain
MV Jadestar Seis Uncertain
MV Island Express II 8:10 – 8:20PM
MV Ocean King 1 Uncertain
MV Island Roro II 3:45 – 4:00PM
MV Kinswell II 4:30 – 4:45PM
MV Lite Ferry 6 4:00 – 4:30PM
MV Lite Ferry 9 Uncertain
MV Lite Ferry 12 Uncertain
MV Lite Ferry 15 Uncertain
MV Lite Ferry 23 Uncertain
MV Santiago de Bohol Uncertain

Mondays MV Superferry 12 3:45 – 4:15PM

Wednesdays MV St. Michael the Archangel 5:00 – 6:00PM
MV Super Shuttle Roro 3 4:00 – 5:30PM

Thursdays MV Superferry 12 4:15 – 5:00PM
MV Zamboanga Ferry 2:00 – 2:30PM

Saturdays MV Superferry 20 5:00 – 6:00PM
Sundays MV Super Shuttle Ferry 3 6:00 – 9:00AM
MV Superferry 21 8:00 – 8:30PM
MV Superferry 20 5:00 – 6:00PM
MV Filipinas Dinagat 12:00 – 12:15NN

The schedules above are subject to change with any prior notice, especially with the Superferries, Negros Navigation and Super Shuttle Roro. Probable cause of delay would be cargo loading. Nevertheless, this will be a very good place for ship spotters to spot. This place was discovered by yours truly and Vincent Paul Sanchez.

Informations on ships for sale and some ferries that were sold to other shipping companies are mostly found in Ouano Wharf. It is located in Mandaue City and is just a ride away from Parkmall Cebu or Cebu International Convention Center. In this place of ship spotting, you will find ships that are currently for sale or ships that are under maintenance. This is also a good source of informations on the fate of some ships, who bought them, what will be there route and some other questions that are related with the shipping industry. There is also a daily trip to Tubigon, Bohol and Camotes Island from here.

There are more ship spotting areas in Cebu but those mentioned above are the most accessible and nice on. These are some of the most basic way of ship spotting in Cebu and these are the most basic yet wonderful place to do it. So what are you waiting for? Come and ship spot with us!

Weesam Express 7 (sir boordz style)
Weesam Express 7 ©Jethro Rick Cagasan

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The OVERNIGHT FERRIES in the PHILIPPINES and its BASE PORTS

written by Mike Baylon

The Overnight Ferry sector is the middle sector of passenger shipping in the Philippines and it bridges the multi-day, long-distance Liner sector and the ubiquitous and important-to-the-intermodal-system Short-Distance Ferry sector. The sector’s most visible characteristic is its overnight voyage and normally it is the route distance that dictates the sailing time. Secondary is the requirement of cargo handling – purchasing of goods to be transported is done during the day when stores are open. And for the purchaser the overnight ship is the perfect respite after a day’s tiring shuttle around the city to buy goods.

Cebu Ships at Ozamiz Port
Overnight Ferries ©Mark Ocul

It is also true for the sellers of goods from the province – the day is their delivery time and the chance to look for customers. Or at least that was how it used to be for the purchaser and the seller. For those ordered through the phone, the day is the perfect time for merchants to assemble the goods and deliver those to the pier. These kinds of commerce dictate why on overnight ships the loading is still loose cargo or palletized. Of course if the trader will make direct deliveries and bypass the regional traders then he will have to bring in a truck. That is why the intermodal system is gaining headway in overnight shipping as in rolling cargo (not container cargo) is on the rise in this sector.

Sometimes the route distance difference might not be great but what separates the overnight ferries from the short-distance ferries is the provision of bunks where passengers can lie down and sleep. Short-distance ferries, meanwhile, are equipped with seats and benches which are not comfortable for the medium distances. Overnight ferries are also, generally, bigger and a little faster. Where short-distance ferries will seldom breach 50 or 60 meters in LOA, that length is almost the starting length of overnight ferries, in the main. If 100 meters is the peak length of overnight ferries, that length is also the startling length of the liners.

Trans-Asia 10 ©James Gabriel Verallo

This hierarchy is also mirrored in speed. Short-distance ferries especially the Basic, Short-distance Ferry will seldom travel over 11 knots. For overnight ferries that is usually the starting speed unless the distance is not that long and the overnight ferry use economical speed. Now if liner speeds generally start at 17 knots, well, that is practically the top speed now for overnight ferries but the truth is few run at that speed now.

In accommodations and amenities, the being middle ground of the overnight ferries are also reflected. Where basic, short-distance ferries will usually have only a TV and maybe a videoke as entertainment and a kiosk as amenity and liners will almost have all the works, the overnight ferry will have something in between. In general, they will have an airconditioned accommodation and even cabins, a dining area or restaurant, a better canteen with hot meals in the better ones, a lounge and even a bar and a massage parlor or a spa sometimes. However, unlike in liners the meal on overnight ferries is not complementary or free.

Trans-Asia 5 Lobby ©Kenneth Sy
Triangulo Suite
Triangulo Suite of Filipinas Nasipit ©Mark Ocul

In the dawn or in the morning the passengers disembark after a night’s rest and journey. In a sense, the overnight ferry is just like an overnight lodging house except that it is travelling. It even has toilets and baths so a passenger can go down fresh and presentable.

In ship design, most of the overnight ships are ROROs or ROPAXes to be more accurate. There are still Cruisers and these are mainly in Zamboanga (they are about half of the steel-hulled overnight ferries there). In some routes there is still the wooden Motor Boat (“batel” or “lancha”) including the Moro boats.

Magnolia Fragrance
Magnolia Fragrance ©Mike Baylon

In the Philippines, many do not realize that our country has only three base ports for the overnight ferries and these are Cebu, Batangas and Zamboanga. Not by design, perhaps, but it happened that one is in the Visayas, one is in Luzon and one is in Mindanao. This used to be four previously with the other one being Manila but as base of overnight ferries Manila has already lost to Batangas which is nearer to the islands.

Ferries might emanate in Northern Mindanao or Jolo or Caticlan but if one looks closely those ferries are not really based there; it just happened to be the end of the route. The base port is also reflected in the domicile of the ferry along with the situation of the city as an emporium and entrepot, a trading place where a long array of goods can be bought and sold and in good quantity.

Cebu International Port and Mactan Channel
Cebu International Port ©Mark Ocul

Cebu is the biggest of the three base ports. She has the most number of overnight ferry companies and the most routes. From Cebu the routes radiate to Northern Mindanao (Surigao, Nasipit, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Ozamis, Plaridel and Dapitan), Leyte (Maasin, Bato, Hilongos, Baybay, Ormoc and Palompon), Samar (Catbalogan and Calbayog), Masbate, Iloilo, Dumaguete, Bohol (Tagbilaran, Tubigon, Jetafe and Ubay) and to Siquijor and Camiguin island-provinces.

Outer wharf of Zamboanga port
Zamboanga International Port ©Mike Baylon

Zamboanga, meanwhile, has routes to Jolo, Bongao and other minor islands of Tawi-tawi province, Olutanga island and Margosatubig in Zamboanga del Sur. Other routes from Zamboanga are gone now because of the development of the highways. Moro boats still ply routes to distant islands like Taganak, Mapun, Cagayancillo and some other minor and remote islands.

Batangas International Port ©Michael Gutib

Batangas, the third base port has overnight routes to Caticlan and Dumaguit in Panay island and to the Romblon islands. With the development of the highways in Mindoro, it has lost its overnight routes to San Jose and Sablayan, both in Occidental Mindoro. It also lost the overnight routes to Coron, Palawan and Masbate City.

From Cebu the following shipping companies have overnight routes: Trans-Asia Shipping Lines, Cokaliong Shipping Lines, Lite Ferries, Roble Shipping, Medallion Transport, George & Peter Lines, Lapu-Lapu Shipping, Asian Marine Transport System, VG Shipping, Gabisan Shipping, South Pacific Transport and J&N Shipping. From Zamboanga, meanwhile, the following shipping companies have overnight ships: Aleson Shipping, Magnolia Shipping, Ever Lines, Sing Shipping, Evenesser Shipping, Ibnerizam Shipping and KM Shipping. From Baliwasan wharves Moro boats with not-so-regular schedule also ply overnight routes and the most prominent of this is L5 Shipping while the rest are practically one-boat operations.

From Batangas the overnight ferry operators are Montenegro Shipping Lines, 2Go Travel, Navios Lines, CSGA Ferry and Asian Marine Transport System. Most of the ferry runs from Batangas are on short-distance routes.

With the withdrawal of MBRS Shipping and successor Romblon Shipping Line along with Moreta Shipping there is almost no overnight ferry company left in Manila as the route to Coron and further can hardly be classified as overnight routes with its distance and with the slowness of the ships in the route. The only overnight route now from Manila is that to Tilik served by Atienza Shipping.

MV May Lilies ©Irvine Kinea

On a minor scale Lucena is also a base of one remaining overnight ferry company which is Kalayaan Shipping which has a route to Romblon. It already lost its overnight route to Masbate. In this scale Iloilo can also be considered since it is the base of Milagrosa Shipping and Montenegro Shipping Lines, both of which have a route to Cuyo and Puerto Princesa.

Looking at their role it is obvious that these base cities are also our biggest trading centers which supplies and receives goods from the islands. Of course none of them can match Manila which is a national port and a national trading center and that is why Manila is the base of the liners and our container shipping companies.

The overnight ferry sector is already beginning to feel the pressure of the intermodal transport system which has impacted in the past two decades liner shipping and its equivalent in cargo shipping, the long-distance container shipping. More and more intermodal trucks are being loaded and this was first felt by this sector in Batangas. Now in Cebu there are more and more intermodal trucks for Leyte (some of those are still bound for Samar), Bohol and Masbate. It is also beginning to appear in overnight ships to Mindanao although there is still the bar of high rolling rates because of the distance. That is why many still roll first through Dumaguete and through Leyte before taking the short-distance ferry to Mindanao.

The new sector of the cargo RORO LCT is also now taking cargo away from the overnight ferry sector. These LCTs take in intermodal trucks and now it has several routes to Leyte and Bohol. Recently it inaugurated a route from Bogo to Bacolod and soon there will be a route to Panay. Actually this sector has also taken out a fraction of the cargo of container shipping companies by loading container vans from Manila. It is Ocean Transport helped by Asian Shipping Corporation which is dominating this sector from Manila.

Whatever, the overnight ferry sector will still be present for a long time. The budget airlines will impact some of its routes from Cebu to Mindanao and Iloilo and from Zamboanga to Bongao but in the main most of the overnight ferry routes are immune to this challenger because simply put there are no airports in their end-routes.

Except for Dumaguete and Bacolod the intermodal bus is still a long way from challenging them as geography does not favor them. A bus can’t compete in a port-to-port setting where the land distance is shorter than the sea crossing because most of the revenue will simply go to the ship as ferry fare and they the bus will still have to pay the ship as cargo that was loaded.

The High Speed Crafts (HSCs) are also limited in challenging because their fares are higher than the overnight ferry or the equivalent day ferry. Besides they can’t carry any respectable amount of cargo. Actually, in the last two decades the HSC sector has lost half of its routes and there are less operators now and the crafts are beginning to gray (Oceanjet is the notable exception).

Besides, there might not really be a substitute for the ‘floating hotel that travels’ which is the overnight ferry. For the price of a lodging house one is brought through the night to one’s destination. Now, how convenient can that be and how value-laden?

That, my friends, is the secret of the overnight ferry.

The LADY MARY JOY 3

In the current era when cruisers were no longer in vogue and fast disappearing, there is still one ferry proudly flying the cruiser flag, the Lady Mary Joy 3 of Aleson Shipping Corporation. Actually, she is even the best and fastest ferry of her company which owns the biggest shipping fleet based in Zamboanga City. Lady Mary Joy 3 might be a non-RORO cruiser but funnily her stern is transom! For Aleson Shipping she holds the premier route of western Mindanao, the Zamboanga City-Jolo, Sulu route. With her speed, she is always the first arrival in either port and arrivals of 2am is not uncommon which means a traverse time of just 6 hours for the 93-nautical mile route. That converts to a actual cruising speed of 15.5 knots with allowance for speeding up and slowing down.

Lady Mary Joy 3 ©Mike Baylon

Lady Mary Joy 3 was born as the Daito in Japan with the IMO Number 9006760. She was owned by Daito Kaiun which provides the shipping connection to Daito islands in the Ryukyus. She was built by Yamanaka Shipbuilding Co. in their Namitaka shipyard and was launched in February of 1990 and completed in April of the same year. Her Length Over-all (LOA) is 73.0 meters and the Length Between Perpendiculars (LBP) is 67.0 meters with a Beam of 11.0 meters which means she is a narrow ship, a reflection of her not being a RORO and being of cruiser design. The ship had an original Gross Tonnage (GT) of 699 nominal tons and a Deadweight Tonnage (DWT) of 852 nominal tons. She is powered by twin Niigata marine diesel engines developing a total of 4,000 horsepower giving her a service speed of 17 knots when new. Lady Mary Joy 3 has a semi-bulbous stem and tall center mast.

Daiko ©Wakanatsu

In the year 2011 when the new replacement Daito came, the old Daito was sold to Aleson Shipping Lines of the Philippines. She was refitted while anchored off Zamboanga port  and Paseo del Mar park and two passenger decks were added astern of the funnel and another scantling was built between the bridge and the funnel which raised her passenger capacity to 500 which is just enough for the Zamboanga City-Jolo route. The cargo deck at her bow was retained but the cargo deck beneath the old passenger deck was converted into an additional Tourist section.

Refitting process ©Mike Baylon

Lady Mary Joy 3 actually has three passenger decks. The lowest which has no opening at the sides is the aforementioned additional airconditioned Tourist section. At the second deck at the front are Cabins and the original Tourist accommodations. Astern of that behind the funnel is Economy and dividing the front and the rear of the second deck is an original Japan lounge with a small front desk. The third and uppermost deck at the bridge level are all Economy which also includes the ship canteen or kiosk.

Cabin Row of the vessel ©Mike Baylon
Tourist Section ©Mike Baylon
Lounge ©Mike Baylon

With additional scantlings the GT of the ship rose to 835 nominal tons and her new Net Tonnage (NT) is 568 tons with a Depth of 5.3 meters and a Draught of 4.11 meters. Her Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) in either direction is 8pm, a very convenient post-dinner departure time. With a pre-dawn arrival this affords passengers travelling beyond Zamboanga City an early start. Those not inclined to go down early can opt to sleep further (a traditional ship courtesy) but visiting the ship at dawn I found almost all the passengers to be off already.

Not being an old ship, Lady Mary Joy 3 is still fast and very reliable and she easily outguns the other cruisers and Moro boats in her route. She might not be a RORO    but that is not much a concern to the company as her pair in the route is a RORO ship. When I last visited Zamboanga City, she was easily the cleanest ship in the Zamboanga City-Jolo route. Though the best ship in the route her fares are comparable to her competitors and this makes her a popular ship for the travelers in this area.

In her current state it looks like many, many years of service can still be expected of her. In fact, it seems she is simply starting.

Lady Mary Joy 3 ©Mike Baylon

The PANGUIL BAY CROSSING

Panguil Bay is the narrow and shallow body of water between Lanao del Norte and Misamis Occidental that at its narrowest might just be two kilometers across or even less especially at the southern end. At that end, the maps mark it with dotted lines because it is not clear where land ends and where the sea begins because most are fishponds and shallow marshes. This small sea is known for sea foods including crustaceans and some foreign entities even have buying stations in the area.

Panguil Bay ©Mike Baylon

Even before World War II Panguil Bay was a sea lane connecting the two provinces. One can take the road through Monte Alegre which goes round Panguil Bay but the distance is simply too long as in about a hundred kilometers or over and will take several hours of travel. But if one takes it the views of Panguil Bay is simply breath-taking from the mountain.
Motor boats once connected the two shores and several competed in the route including Charles Brown, an American resident. After the war small steel-hulled passenger-cargo ships began to dominate and slowly the successor of Charles Brown, Tamula Shipping began to dominate. Ruperto Tamula was the son-in-law of Charles Brown.

Wooden Ship at Tubod Port ©Mark Ocul

The old routes in Panguil Bay was Ozamis-Kolambugan and Ozamis-Tubod and R.P. Tamula Shipping completely dominated that by the ‘90s. Their ships sailed every hour and even more frequent at peak hours. However, they did not sail at night. Anyway at that time and security situation almost no public vehicles run in the Lanao del Norte highway after dark. Tamula used a lot of ships and some even have airconditioned accommodations. Also, when the winds blow their ships will rock and will take a dogleg route to avoid waves slamming broadside.

Rural Transit entering Royal Seal ©Mark Ocul

Millennium Shipping of Davao tried to enter the route by providing RORO service between Tubod, the capital and the barrio of Silanga in Tangub City. It was one of the shortest crossings in the bay but a little far from the main center which was Ozamis City. Millennium used LCTs but there were very few vehicles crossing then and there were no intermodal buses yet so the schedule of crossing was irregular.

A sea change happened when the compromise agreement of the buses in the area happened which opened the Dipolog-Cagayan de Oro route for the buses. This development coincided with the development of the private Mukas port in Tubod. Soon Daima Shipping, owner of Mukas port was transporting Rural Transit buses to Ozamis. Daima has the shortest crossing of all and their route is not that exposed to winds like the route of Tamula. Their ships were also in a spic and span condition when they first arrived unlike the tired ships of Tamula and the LCTs of Millennium.

LAKBAYAN UNO Lakbayan Uno of Millenium Shipping ©Carl Jakosalem

Millennium Shipping also built their own port further down the road in Tabigue and later they also built their own wharf in Ozamis. They handled the Lillian Express and buses but they cannot compete with Daima as the their route was longer, the ROPAXes were slower and not level to Daima’s standard. Aside from their LCTs like “Wilcox”, Millennium tried to bring in “Lakbayan Uno” but at 7.5 knots it was not any faster than the LCTs. With longer interval because of low patronage they were dead duck from the start and soon they quit altogether and sold the LCTs to Maayo Shipping.

Soon Tamula Shipping was losing patronage fast. Passengers no longer want to get off at Kolambugan proper and take the tricycle to the port and haggle with the “labor” and porters if they have cargo or luggage. They also didn’t like the sardines-type of loading. In Ozamis too connections are better with the bus that goes direct to the terminal 2 kilometers from the port and imagine if one will take the tricycle for that. So in a short time Tamula Shipping was dead duck too and in just a few years they also stopped sailing the Panguil Bay route (they were also doing the Balingoan-Camiguin routes). Last to go was the route to Tubod but soon the Tamula ships were just moored and slowly they began settling one by one into the shallow water.

Now only Daima Shipping is doing the Panguil Bay route. However, instead of operating full blast all their ships they let half rot and gather barnacles resulting in long vehicle queues and a long wait for boarding which is what usually happens if there is no competition and there is no other choice but to grin and bear it. And that happened when vehicle and passenger traffic in the route was on the rise year after year. On the other hand, one positive development brought by Daima was night sailing and ferries now run almost round the clock except for a few hours.

Daima Shipping Lines Inc. folio Daima Shipping Lines ©Mark Ocul

What is needed in the route now is a new player. But the problem of entry is that there are no suitable ports on the Lanao side except if the new entrant will build their own port. Tubod government port is available but the distance is much greater and that translates into higher rates and so competing is difficult. Maybe one possibility is the Tubod-Silanga route but for passenger which is a decisive factor in the route (a lot of them are not bus passengers). There is also just one bus company left, also a monopoly and it has a tie-up with Daima Shipping. There is a practically duopoly in the route.

The future threat to the route is if the Tubod-Silanga bridge is built. That has long been a proposal and the German government was willing to fund it and feasibility survey has already been made. However, the German government demands a local counterpart but the government so far is not willing to shoulder it. So the plans for over a decade now is gathering rust and I do not see it being revived soon no matter what the rosy projections are by the optimists.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/blueleo2/12303969024/in/photolist-jKg4jY-nTaTAK-e6XQXy-7cxFqb-4do5ew-oBhRNv-oBmyy Pangul Bay Bridge Proposal

My Davao-Cebu Trip via Baybay

My “Maria Lolita” and “Rosalia 3” Ship Spotting
written by: Mike Baylon

When I go on travel, I usually integrate ship spotting with free viewing while on board a bus as I really love trips combining the bus and the ship. A little tiring especially for one no longer young but I dislike airline travel not because I am afraid of flying but because I find airline travel boring and aseptic as there is almost nothing to absorb in airports and in one-hour plane rides.

If my health permits me, I try routes that I have not done before. This is one way of knowing the country, our people and culture. This also brings not only excitement and surprises but also failures and disappointment but one learns in both cases. Mastery of different routes and schedules is one result and capability for travel advice is a future benefit.

Having not sailed yet with a Baybay-Cebu ship I made a plan for a trip that will pass by a Philippine Ship Spotter Society in Baybay City, Leyte. My plan from Davao Ecoland terminal was to the first bus to Manila then, a Philtranco ordinary bus (their aircon bus is too late for my purpose). [Anyway now, there are buses for Manila that leaves earlier if they are full enough.]

Having ridden a lot of buses going to Manila from Davao, I was already familiar with their running schedules. The 9 pm bus loads into the 6am Montenegro Lines ferry in Lipata port for Benit port. This will be my first trip through the length of Panaon Island and will be my first pass through the renowned “The Saddle” mountain pass between San Ricardo and Pintuyan towns in the island.

With such a schedule, I know I will be in mountainous Mahaplag junction in Leyte before lunch the next day. I already know that area in the past because I disembark there when my bus from Naga is bound for Baybay. Travelers say there are “poisoners” in the area but I am not a believer in urban legends and I buy and eat their “puto”. Well, I am still alive with no stomach ache ever after leaving that area. By the way, the name of the barrio is Cuatro de Agosto and it is just over 30 minutes by van (called “V-hire” there) from Baybay.

Philtranco 1709
Philtranco 1709 ©Mike Baylon

Our Philtranco Daewoo bus was new but being non-reclining was not comfortable for me and so I slept little. Our trip was uneventful and being a night trip the passengers were mostly asleep. Just before daybreak we were already on queue on the weighing scale of Lipata port. The port authority PPA measures the weight of the rolling cargo because after 30 years of experience they found out they do not know how to estimate weights because they don’t know where to look at and they are too shy to ask the ship cargo masters how they estimate the weight and how to balance the cargo and they don’t have an idea what is ship deadweight tonnage. Seriously, that weighing is just a money-making project of theirs that is charged to the vehicle owners.

Lipata Ferry Terminal
Lipata Ferry Terminal ©Mike Baylon

Feeling low blood sugar, I decided not to fall in line into the ticket and terminal fee queue and be caged like cattle before departure and go through the X-ray machine where they try to see if some dumb passenger is carrying Abu Sayyaf bombs. So like in boarding processes in the past, I went straight to the “Maria Lolita” of Montenegro Lines. Nobody was really noticing as it was just beginning to get light. I took a seat on a bench in the car deck beside a crewman eating his breakfast and true to custom he offered me to eat. It was not yet boarding time for passengers.

Maria Lolita
Maria Lolita at Lipata Port ©Mike Baylon

It turned out the crewman was the 2nd Engineer of the ship and we hit off immediately. We talked about the ship, his experience, the working conditions, from where he is, his family and aspirations. Sometimes, a ship spotter will feel the next logical question is, “Can I see the engine room?” And so I went down the stairs and into a clean and orderly engine room with young oilers and apprentices who were all friendly.

While touring the engine room, I noticed the engine rev up. I looked at the gauges and saw the RPM was at running speed. I took my time because anyway it is not a usual occurrence a passenger is in the engine room while the ship is sailing. Later on, I still talked to the second engineer but on the cargo deck already in the same bench. It was hard to carry a conversation in the engine room as it doesn’t have a sound-proofed engine control room.

Maria Lolita engine room
Maria Lolita Engine Room ©Mike Baylon

Knowing the crossing to Benit is short, I bade goodbye to the 2nd Engineer because I still want to tour the ship which was a rare one because it is a double-ended ferry. I hastened to the double bridge not being used as the ferry is already nearing Benit port. I know the other double bridge will look exactly like the bridge not being used. Before going down I spent some time in the airconditioned Tourist section as I want to cool down a bit.

In Benit port, I disembarked early so I can get port photos including the Illegal Exaction Point of San Ricardo LGU. These Illegal Exaction Points are rampant throughout the country like the illegal checkpoints of the military, police and the Local Government Units. Those are nothing more than tools for shakedowns and extortion and no amount of Supreme Court decisions and DILG memorandums declaring them illegal can ever do away with them. Greed after all is not a sin and nobody goes to jail for defying Supreme Court decisions. Anyway, in this country that is how they define “rule of law” (pronounced “woool of low” like how a toothless person would pronounce that).

Illegal exaction point in Benit
Illegal exaction point in Benit ©Mike Baylon

Soon after leaving Benit, our bus began climbing “The Saddle”. It reminded me somehow of “Tatlong Eme” in Quezon National Park between Pagbilao and Atimonan except that the drivers don’t know the right-of-way rule of steep mountain passes. The climb and the top affords glimpses of the serene-looking Sogod Bay and Limasawa Island. We passed by the small towns of Panaon island. Passing the junction in Sogod, I knew we were already headed to the mountain range separating Southern Leyte and Leyte provinces.

The "Saddle"
The “Saddle” ©Mike Baylon

At the top, we made a stop in the DPWH rest area in Agas-agas made famous first by the rushing waters during the rainy season that always destroyed the road. This was the reason why the Japanese designed and funded a bypass bridge (which is now being threatened again by the “agas-agas” of water). Pretty soon, I was in Mahaplag junction and I got off. I find the vendors of this place always nice and helpful and with them knowing there is a passenger waiting they will always flag down the needed ride – it is after all a chance also to sell their foodstuff.

Mahaplag junction
Mahaplag junction ©Mike Baylon

Rolling down into Baybay, I contacted the resident ship spotter of Baybay, “fatbudhha” Mervin. I arrived in the common terminal at 12:30 at by 1pm Mervin picked me up and we proceeded to the barbecue restaurant by the bay where he treated me for lunch. We had a rewarding exchange and I was amazed by his knowledge of the Cebu shipping families especially Gothong. It was also a surprise to me he knows my home region of Bicol as I didn’t suspect he was once an abaca buyer there.

We parted at mid-afternoon and Baybay town center being small I was able to roam the place. I had plenty of time since the earliest ferry for Cebu leaves at 8pm. I visited the adjoining ship ticketing offices and I chose the “Rosalia 3” of Lapu-Lapu Shipping over the “Filipinas Surigao” of Cokaliong Shipping for the simple reason I have already sailed with the latter. As much as possible I take the ship I have not sailed with before so I can have more ship experiences.

The boulevard and baywalk fronting Baybay port
The Boulevard and Baywalk fronting Baybay Port ©Mike Baylon

I have already experienced the side-by-side bunks of Lapu-Lapu Shipping before (and it was true canvass material) and I was not excited. So I took the cheap aircon Tourist of “Rosalia 3” to get a good sleep as I will still be ship spotting when I arrive in Cebu port. In this trip, I found out that the Economy bunks of Lapu-Lapu Shipping has already been upgraded in that it already has steel frame and mattress but still side-by-side and perpendicular to the side.

Rosalia 3 pax accommodations at night
Rosalia 3 Passenger Accommodations at night ©Mike Baylon

My trip aboard the “Rosalia 3” was uneventful except it was raining and I found out that the passenger terminal building of Baybay leaks and there is no covered walk to the ship nor is there a covered walk too from the road to the passenger terminal building and it is not near. We left ahead of the “Filipinas Surigao” (Note: the ship and franchise is now sold to Roble Shipping).

We arrived in Cebu at dawn and I didn’t disembark immediately because I still have to ship spot (there are no decent shots before light and arriving ships come by about breakfast time). Before leaving I toured the ship including the bridge and the engine room. Ship spotting is always better when there is light. I was also able to interview the Chief Cook who was also the Chief Cook of the ill-fated “Rosalia 2” which was hit by fire in Cataingan Bay in Masbate.

Rosalia - 3
Rosalia 3 ©Mike Baylon

For a ship spotter coming from Davao and Bislig (or even not), I can recommend the via Baybay route. Aside from ship spotting opportunities in at least two ports (with enough time allowance side trips to Surigao and Liloan ports are possible). If maximization is the aim then one can even go to Hilongos or Ormoc. The expense in going via Baybay, amazingly, is even lower than taking a ferry in Nasipit. They keys to going there is Mahaplag junction (or Mahaplag crossing in bus parlance) and taking a bus going to Manila and not the slow Bachelor bus.

To those who asked me for travel advice before in Agribusiness Week, if going to western Leyte, I always recommended this mode and route too as one arrived much earlier that the slow and round about to Maasin Bachelor bus to Ormoc. Funny, many in Leyte itself don’t realize the Manila buses and Mahaplag junction are the keys to faster travel within their island.

Over-all, though tiring, it was a successful and satisfying trip for me.

Baybay port
Baybay Port ©Mike Baylon

PS: If you have questions about this article regarding fares and travel tips, you may post it by clicking this LINK so that it would be answered and discussed. Thanks!

Why Ship’s can’t compete with trucks and buses on Parallel Routes.

written by: Mike Baylon

In recent years, there have been attempts to match ships against trucks and/or buses on parallel route using HSCs (High Speed Crafts) and MSCs (Medium Speed Crafts). All of them failed because for one, they failed to reckon with history and second, they were blind to the economics. Among these were the off-and-on attempts to establish an HSC ferry link from Manila to Bataan. From the 1970s to the recent attempt by SuperCat all failed along with various attempts in the past two decades by the likes of Mt. Samat Ferry Express and El Greco Jet Ferries. These attempts all tried to offer an alternative to the Manila buses to Bataan.

Port of Lamao, Bataan
Lamao Port, Bataan ©Edison Sy
SuperCat 25 at Manila
SuperCat 25 at Manila ©Nowell Alcancia

In the same area a few years ago Metro Ferry tried the Mall of Asia to Cavite City route and folded in a short time with the shipping company now trying to sell its ferries. It was simply competing against the Cavite bus and that bus goes further up to Lawton. With HSCs the fight is more of a ferry versus bus encounter.

In Davao Gulf, Dans Penta 1 tried a route from Davao to the Lupon town of Davao Oriental. It ceased operations in a few months and the fastcraft laid idle until it was sold. They did not notice that the SuperCat and Oceanjet started service from Cebu to Dumaguete from the 1990s but they were recently driven away by the Ceres Liner bus crossing the sea by Maayo Shipping LCTs.

Dans Penta 1
Dans Penta 1 ©Aristotle Refugio

For a very long time, Illana Bay in southern Mindanao was ruled by the wooden motor boats when there was still no road connecting Pagadian and Cotabato City. There were motor boats from Cotabato to Pagadian, Malabang and Balabagan as there was a motor boat from Tukuran to Caromatan. When the Narciso Ramos Highway connecting Cotabato City and Pagadian was opened suddenly all the motor boats of Illana Bay were gone. Also gone were the Zamboanga-Cotabato ferries.

This was also true for the ferries connecting Ipil, Margosatubig and Pagadian from Zamboanga. There were a lot of steel ferries there before but when the Zamboanga-Pagadian road was cemented slowly the ferries gave way and now they were gone from those routes. That was also what happened to the “3S” area of Zamboanga del Norte, the towns of Sibuco, Sirawai and Siocon. When the roads were built, the ships were gone. Now only motor boats go to Sibuco.

Nikel Princely [Aleson Shipping]
Nikel Princely at Pagadian Port ©pagadian.com thru Mike Baylon

There was also a Guiuan, Eastern Samar to Tacloban connection before using steel-hulled ferries and big motor boats. But when the new road was built connecting Guiuan to Basey through the southern coast of Samar was built the ships there had to transfer to new routes. Mati City once had a sea link to General Santos City but with the Davao-Gensan road built and the Mati road now cemented and safe this route is now gone.

Actually, the lesson that ships can’t beat land transport can first be gleaned in Luzon. In the late 1940s there were still ships from Manila to Salomague, Currimao, Claveria and Aparri. But when the roads were slowly built the passenger-cargo ships were gone before the end of the 1950s. In Bicol passenger-cargo ships from Manila were calling on Sorsogon, Bulan, Legazpi, Tabaco, Nato, Tandoc, Mercedes and Larap ports until the end of the 1970s. With the completion of the Maharlika Highway the ships left as they can no longer compete with the trucks and buses.

BFAR fastcraft in Mati port
Mati Port ©Mike Baylon

In the big, underdeveloped islands of before like Mindanao, Samar, Mindoro and Palawan when there were still no roads connecting the towns it was wooden motor boats that served as the link (in Mindanao the link included steel ships). That is also true in peninsulas without roads then like the southern tip of Bondoc peninsula and Zamboanga peninsula.

There were seaboards that were once beyond a mountain range and isolated that were dependent on sea links. That was the case of the eastern seaboard of Mindanao which was rich in forest products then. It was ships that linked the towns there, the reason there so many ports then there and some even have connections to Manila or Japan like Mati, Lambajon, Bislig and Tandag. It’s the same case too in the southern shores of the old Cotabato province beyond the mountains. Lebak and Kalamansig towns linked to Cotabato City through the motor boat.

Port of Bislig
Bislig Port ©Janjan Salas

The intermodal transport system where islands and regions are linked by the short-distance RORO is an extension of the defeat in Luzon of the ships. When Samar was connected by RORO to Matnog, the intermodal trucks and buses drove out the liners in Samar and now freighters from Manila only arrive in Samar intermittently. Even in the next island of Leyte the liner from Manila is practically gone and container shipping there is on the retreat. That process is also at work now in Masbate and Bohol.

Mindoro was once linked by ship from Manila. Now that is all gone and even the next island of Panay is severely impacted by the intermodal transport system. Only Negros, Cebu and Mindanao islands among the major islands are left with just a small dent from the intermodal.

What is it with land and intermodal transport that beats ferries and cargo ships? Land transport is cheaper and it is also faster. With a small unit like a truck or a bus the threshold where one can leave with a trip that will earn profit is much lower. The acquisition cost is much smaller too and land transport can stop anywhere, go different routes and offer more options. In ubiquity and flexibility, sea transport can’t beat land and intermodal transport.

port of lilo-an leyte
Lilo-an Port, Leyte ©Jaz Prado

Shipping is also weighed down but much stringent requirements. An old ship has to be drydocked every two years and each drydocking costs many millions. There is no equivalent in land and intermodal transport of a regular, mandatory overhaul of every two years. I do not know if authorities are overacting. A ship where the engines conk out still has the flotation and stability of a barge. All it needs to safely reach port is a tug if it can’t restart its engine/s. With a new rule which says no ships can sail at 30kph winds, almost all danger is removed as such winds will not even produce a half-meter of swell. A steel-hulled ship is not a banca but to government authorities it seems they look like the same.

The two types of transport also has different crewing requirements. A bus will only have a crew of two and a truck three. Deck officers of a ship are already half a dozen and engine crew the same. Plus there is ancillary crew like the purser, the cooks and other service crew including security. A ferry will need stewards, galley and restaurant crew and many others. All of those have to be paid money and crewing less than required or if not qualified will result in penalties or even suspension of the ship.

M/V Nathan Matthew
Nathan Matthew ©.BITSI_DoMiNiC_

Since water resistance is much greater than rolling resistance and ships have great weights the fuel consumption of ships is also greater by comparative unit. Where fuel requirement of trucks and buses is measured in liters, those of ships are measured in tons of fuel. Ships also have a lot of equipment like bridge and auxiliary equipments that needs maintenance while a truck will run with only the oil pressure gauge and ammeter working and replacement of those is dirt cheap.

Simply put it is much more expensive to acquire, crew and maintain a ship than land and intermodal transport. While ships and shipping companies have to live with the hassles and mulcting in ports and by the authorities, the “forced donations” of trucks in checkpoint is loose change compared to what ships and shipping companies have to cough up with and buses are even exempted. Insurance is much higher too in shipping.

Raymond 3788 in Pasacao port
Raymond 3788 in Pasacao Port ©Mike Baylon
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Danica Joy and an Oil Tanker ©Barry

So it is no wonder that there are a lot of businessmen that are eager to invest in buses and trucks while in shipping few get attracted now and the ships just get older and older. Maritime and port authorities having been drawn not from the ranks of mariners and shipping professionals have consistently shown a lack of understanding of shipping and cannot even support and lead properly the sector they are supposed to be administering.

It will be no wonder for me if in the future only the short-distance ferry sector will grow as that is needed by the intermodal transport system. The cargo RORO LCT sector will also grow but the long-distance shipping sector will wilt while the overnight ferry sector will just remain steady although threats are emerging against them from the intermodal transport sector. In efficiencies, in speed, in lack of hassles including port problems and Metro Manila road congestion, in price comparison, the ship really cannot compete. This is lost completely on so-called “shipping experts” who always assume that the traditional shipping they know “is always superior” because that was what they were taught in school and by habit they no longer check the empirical situation. If they do they will find out that trucking goods is faster and cheaper than moving it by ship.

It will be reality that will teach them this lesson.

The Intermodal in the Philippines

Retrieved from the Old PSSS Website
written by: Mike Baylon

Intermodal is the use of more than one form of transport in a trip or journey. In the Philippines, that usually means island-hopping using a vehicle (public like a bus or private) and a RORO. Intermodal could be for business like shipping, a container van or cargo truck. It could also be for personal pleasure like bringing one’s own vehicle for touring or visiting relatives in the provinces.

Batangas Port ©Edison Sy

35 years ago, the intermodal as we know it today barely existed. There were only a few LCTs that connected some nearby islands especially in the Visayas. The connections between Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao were not yet in existence. In fact the highways we take for granted today were still being built. The completion of that, the construction of connecting ports and the emergence of the RORO ships were the set conditions for the intermodal system to fully arise.

The idea to connect Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao were first crystallized in the Pan-Philippine Highway project dream during Diosdado Macapagal’s term. This did not get off the ground for lack of funds and basically only feasibility studies were made. The idea was then taken over by Ferdinand Marcos. War reparations equipments and soft loans from Japan were used. Hence, the project was renamed the Philippines-Japan Friendship Highway.

The Proposed Pan-Philippine Highway ©Gorio Belen

It was already Martial Law when the road constructions went into full swing. More foreign loans were contracted and applied to the project. At Marcos’ behest, the project was renamed the Maharlika Highway. Most Filipinos later identified this project with Marcos (and this probably resulted in the everlasting irritation of Diosdado Macapagal’s diminutive daughter).

At the middle portion of the road construction period the connecting ports of Matnog (in Sorsogon), San Isidro (in Northern Samar), Liloan (in Southern Leyte)and Lipata (in Surigao City) were built. Those were entirely new ports and specifically designed as RORO ports to connect Sorsogon to Samar and Leyte to Surigao. Two ROROs were also purposely-built, the “Maharlika I”, launched in 1982 and fielded in the Matnog-San Isidro route and the “Maharlika II” launched in 1984 and fielded in the Liloan-Lipata route.

Matnog Port ©Joe Andre Yo

Two key connecting bridges were also constructed. To connect Samar and Leyte, the beautiful San Juanico Bridge was built over the narrow strait separating the two islands. And to connect Leyte to Panaon Island, the Liloan bridge was built over the narrow, river-like, shallow channel separating the two islands.

San Juanico Bridge ©George Tappan

The Marcos government made a lot of hoopla about the Luzviminda (Luzon-Visayas-Mindanao) connection. Officially, when the Maharlika ferries sailed the administration then claimed it was the first time that Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao were connected in our history by the intermodal. But in reality the private sector was ahead by a few years and used their own ROROs and LCTs to connect Luzviminda using existing and makeshift ports and wharves, some of which were privately-built. The Bicolandia Shipping of Eugenia Tabinas of Tabaco, Albay and the Millennium Shipping of the Floirendos of Davao were among the key pioneers here that lasted.

Soon other RORO connections also came into existence bridging the other islands. In the Southern Tagalog routes, it was the Manila International Shipping and Viva Lines which were the pioneers. They mainly used Batangas and Lucena as base ports and they connected the two provinces of Mindoro, Romblon and Marinduque. In the intra-Visayas routes Gothong Shipping, Aznar Shipping and Maayo Shipping were among the early pioneers that lasted along with Millennium Shipping. Except for Gothong, all were short-distance ferry companies and basically carried vehicles crossing the islands.

Dalahican Port, Lucena City ©Raymond Lapus

It must be pointed out that even in the 80’s, liner companies (like Negros Navigation, Sulpicio Lines and most especially Gothong Shipping) and some overnight ferry companies (notably Trans-Asia Shipping) already have ROROs that serve the overnight and some short-distance routes. Though basically carrying LCL and palletized cargo their ships can carry vehicles if needed. However, unlike the short-distance ferry companies that was not their thrust. But their RORO liners are sometimes the only way to bring vehicles from Manila to an island not connected by the short-distance ferry companies. Hence, car manufacturers and dealers were among their clients. This presence impacted a lot the long-distance LCT/barge+tug companies like Lusteveco (Luzon Stevedoring Co.), a niche carrier established by the Americans.

Asia Korea of Trans-Asia Shipping Lines ©Gorio Belen

In the 80’s, containerization of local shipping went full blast. It began with 10-foot and 20-foot container vans moved by forklifts. But in the 90’s, the 20-footers dominated with a significant number of 40-foot vans that are mainly transshipments for foreign ports. To speed up loading and unloading the container vans were mounted in trailers pulled by tractor heads or prime movers. This mode is also considered intermodal.

While that intermodal form was gaining supremacy in the long-distance routes, the combination long-distance bus/truck plus short-distance RORO was also gaining ground in the 90’s. In the first decade of the new millennium that intermodal type was already beginning to surpass the long-distance shipping-based intermodal. This new combination has changed and is still changing the Philippine shipping seascape. The long-distance buses (along with the budget airlines) took the passengers of the liners. And the long-distance, intermodal trucking began to take the container business of long-distance shipping companies.

Calapan Port ©Raymond Lapus

In the last decade, long-distance liner shipping companies whose base is Manila has been driven out of some important islands and their frequencies were reduced in others. While Manila as an inter-island gateway port is being reduced in significance, Batangas has become a very important gateway port. Because of this long-distance shipping from Manila to Panay has been reduced to just the port of Iloilo. But even in this route the frequencies are much reduced now while the frequencies of the buses and trucks are in full upswing. Occidental Mindoro ferries from Batangas also lost out and Mindoro passenger shipping from Manila is now almost over (this does not include Lubang island).

The intermodal bus/truck plus short-distance RORO combination has also invaded Cebu, traditionally our second most important port. There are now long-distance trucks from Manila coming to Cebu and some of these are even Cebu-based. These trucks have already short-circuited the traditional Cebu shipping bailiwick Eastern Visayas. To compete Cebu manufacturers and distributors are already using their own delivery trucks to the nearby islands esp Negros, Bohol, Leyte and Masbate. Trucks from those islands also reach Metro Cebu.

Polambato Port, Bogo City, Cebu in the North ©James Gabriel Verallo

Bato Port, Santander, Cebu in the South ©Jonathan Bordon

Toledo Port, Toledo City, Cebu in the West ©James Gabriel Verallo

Cebu Port in the East and Central ©Mark Ocul

In general, even in the face of these inroads the overnight ferries of Cebu using break bulk or palletized loading have held forth and are still expanding. In the main their northern Mindanao, bailiwick is still intact save for Pulauan port in Dapitan City in Zamboanga peninsula.

In Mindanao, there are only three ports with significant rolling cargo – the Pulauan port in Dapitan, the Lipata port in Surigao City and the Balingoan port in Misamis Oriental. In Pulauan ships generally connect to Dumaguete but many connect further to Cebu. In Lipata port, the traffic there is generally going north to Tacloban and further up to Luzon and not to the direction of Cebu. The RORO route to Camiguin from Balingoan, Misamis Oriental has long been developed and was initially buoyed by tourism. Recently, that route has already been extended to Jagna, Bohol.

Pulauan Port, Dapitan City ©Mike Baylon

Lipata Port, Surigao City ©Aristotle Refugio

Balingoan Port, Balingoan, Misamis Oriental ©Michael Denne

In the Visayas, the important intermodal connections going east of Cebu passes through the following: the Bogo-Palompon route, the Danao-Isabel route, the Mandaue-Ormoc route and the Mandaue-Hindang route. The ROROs in these routes mainly carry rolling cargo, usually trucks.

In Bohol, the main intermodal ports of entry from Metro Cebu is Tubigon, Jetafe and Clarin. However there is an important connection between Argao, Cebu and Loon, Bohol. There are also important connections between Negros and Cebu islands. From southern Cebu there are a lot of connections to ports near Dumaguete. In the north, the Toledo-San Carlos and Tabuelan-Escalante routes are important connections. There are also ROROs connecting Cebu island to Bantayan island, Masbate island and Camotes islands.

Tubigon Port ©Mike Baylon

Negros island is mainly connected to Panay island through the Bacolod-Dumangas route. And Panay is connected to Mindoro and Batangas through the Dangay port in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro.

From the Bicol peninsula, ROROs connect to Catanduanes (from Tabaco City) and Masbate island (from Pio Duran, Albay, Pilar and Bulan in Sorsogon). However, the main connection of Bicol now to Samar is through the town of Allen, Northern Samar via two ports of entry – Balicuatro and Dapdap. There is also an alternative route now from Benit port, San Ricardo, Southern Leyte to Lipata, Surigao City. And Leyte connects to Ubay, Bohol via Bato, Leyte and Maasin, Southern Leyte.

There are still a lot of minor RORO connections I have not mentioned. These are mainly connections to smaller islands like Lubang, Alabat, within Romblon province, to Ticao, Dinagat, Siargao, Samal, Balut, Olutanga, Siquijor, Guimaras and Semirara islands. If necessary, the ROROs in Zamboanga City can take in rolling cargos to Basilan and Jolo islands and ports in Tawi-tawi province. There is also an important RORO connection between Mukas and Ozamis City which obviates the need to go round the whole Panguil Bay.

Zamboanga Port ©britz777

The short-distance RORO sector is still growing and more routes are still being created. In its wake should come the buses, trucks, jeeps and private vehicles normally. However, in the last few years, the Arroyo government has oversold the intermodal system and in its wake is creating a lot of “ports to nowhere” and RORO routes that do not make sense. “Ports to nowhere” are ports where practically no ships call.

Strong Republic Nautical Highway(Visayas) ©Raymond Lapus

But as the cliché goes, that is a different story altogether.

More Photos of Intermodal Ports, Click here