The China Ferries Are Coming

It’s been a long time now that our newly-fielded ferries were surplus ferries from Japan, be it liners, overnight ships or short-distance ROROs. But in the last 5 years about half of our newly-fielded ferries from outside were already from China, both in surplus and in newbuilds. And that only shows the big changes that are happening in shipping vis-à-vis Japan and China. The latter is a rising power in shipping and the former is a rising one which has surplus ships to sell now. Also, other countries which are not too competitive but are good in ship design are designing ships that will be built in China. We had that kind of arrangement too in Hyundai shipbuilding in Subic. But even when that was still operating we were not that competitive vis-à-vis China in terms of price.

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FastCat M11 by Mark Ocul of PSSS.

The most prominent ferries built in China are the brand-new FastCats of the Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corporation. These catamaran-ROROs were designed in Australia but built in different shipyards in China and that design and arrangement proved to be a winner. More of these ships are coming and recently the FastCat M15 and FastCat M16 arrived in the Philippines. There are now 14 of these catamaran-ROROs in the country and these are serving half of the regions of the country. Most of these ferries were built by the Marine Expert Xijiang in Zhaoqing, China.

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Lite Ferry 18 by Ryan Diel of PSSS.

The other prominent group of ferries that arrived in the Philippines are the old ferries mainly of the HNSS (Hainan Strait Shipping) which connects Hainan island-province to the mainland of China. Most of these ferries went to Lite Shipping Corporation and to its competitor Medallion Transport. For Lite Ferries these ships are the latter Lite Ferry 16, Lite Ferry 17, Lite Ferry 18 and Lite Ferry 19. The four took long in refitting as the ferries needed to be re-engined. The four are among the biggest ferries of Lite Ferries. Let it be noted that Lite Ferries also ordered brand-new passenger-cargo LCTs from China, their Lite Ferry 27, Lite Ferry 29 and Lite Ferry 30.

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Lite Ferry 30 by Jose Zeus Ranoco Bade of PSSS.

For Medallion Transport their ex-China ferries are the Lady of Joy, Lady of Rule, Lady of Good Voyage and the Lady of Triumph. They also have a passenger-cargo LCT from China which is the Lady of Smile. Roble Shipping also tried passenger-cargo LCTs from China, their LCT Immaculate Stars and the LCT Jacqueline Stars. Montenegro Lines also has this type in their Reina Urduja which was the former Poseidon 26 of the Primary Trident Marine Solutions. These passenger-cargo LCTs are not necessarily better but they are cheap to operate. The downsides are the lack of passenger accommodations and amenities and the lack of speed, too.

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Reina Urduja by Albritz Salih of PSSS.

Of course, in the country there are so many LCTs now from China and they are counted in the dozens. Most are the traditional LCTs which are trampers but a growing number and maybe about a dozen or so are in the Cargo RORO LCT role which carries trucks and its crews and a car at times. It is so easy to assign a regular LCT into the Cargo RORO LCT role and no conversion is needed. The Cebu Sea Charterers are the best known for this together with the Primary Trident Marine Solutions of Leyte. But I am excluding them in my count as they are not primarily ferries in the sense that the term “ferry” is understood in this country.

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The new Lite Ferry 5 by Mark Ocul of PSSS.

Recently, aside from the FastCats, Lite Ferries also got new ferries from China, the new Lite Ferry 5 and the new Lite Ferry 9 (they have two previous ships which carried these names in their fleet but both were disposed of already). Starlite Ferries also got a new ferry from China, a fastcraft with the name Starlite Sprint 1 and supposedly more of this type is coming. Jomalia Shipping also acquired a fastcat from China, the new Maica 5 in their fleet.

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Maica 5 by Capt. Emzrenz Miramontes of PSSS.

But the biggest importer of new Medium Speed Crafts (MSCs) is the new shipping company Island Water, a subsidiary of Island Shipping. Island Water has the MSCs Island Biri, Island Calaguas, Island Calayan, Island Dalupiri, Island Balabac and the small Island Sabtang which looks like a modernized motor banca. All of these are from Jianlong Shipbuilding of China. These MSCs have tried many routes in the country but not all have running routes yet.

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Island Biri and a FastCat by Don Zian Encarnacion of PSSS.

This is a little historical now and some of you might be surprised that before all these came a pair of China sister ships already arrived in in the country in 2011. These are the Regina Calixta V of Regina Shipping Lines (RSL) and the Star Ferry 7 of the 168 Shipping Lines which are both Bicol shipping companies. The two were offered for sale as two bridges will not longer allow them to sail. Paradoxidally, they were actually river boats in China but they were ROROs.

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So that was the change. We are no longer dependent on Japan for ferries. More and more China is becoming our primacy source of ferries and that is not even including LCTs. That will continue in the future as China is the cheapest source of ships nowadays. Figures speak and we will have to get used to that although in quality they are still behind.

 

 

Starlite Ferries Has A New Fastcraft

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Photo credit from our Chinese Broker Friend: Fred Li

In the past, when Starlite Ferries was still owned by Sec. Alfonso Cusi, it also operated fastcrafts the first being the Super Seabus which was a cast-off when the Viva Shipping Lines (VSL) of Don Domingo Reyes (DDR) collapsed early this millennium. Actually, she was not owned by Viva Shipping but by its legal-fiction company which was DR Shipping.

Super Seabus has a checkered history. She was first owned in the country as the Island Cruiser II of Sun Cruises that made Manila Bay cruises up to Corregidor Island. But when Bullet Express and SuperCat made its appearance in the Batangas to Calapan route, Viva Shipping had to respond and they forced the acquisition of two fastcats from Sun Cruises in 1994.

Super Seabus  as Island Cruiser II did not serve very well with DR Shipping as she was already old and her motors were always  forced to the maximum as her competitors were really way faster than her. The difference in horsepower was the biggest reason for that.

More than a decade later, Starlite Ferries acquired the Starlite Juno which they used in the Batangas to Puerto Galera route when that route had a revival of sorts a few years ago after nearly dying at the hands of the Sabang motor bancas that went direct to the resort area of Puerto Galera. The motor bancas got tourists to their destination faster and cheaper and that can’t be beaten unless they go down.

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Now, at the hands of new owner Dennis Uy of Chelsea Logistics, Starlite Ferries has just acquired a new fastcraft from China, the Starlite Sprint  1 (is that the beginning of a ship series?). The fastcraft is equipped with Yanmar engines and is supposedly capable of 24 knots (that is the usual speed now of the SuperCats). Even at one passenger deck only, she can take in 250 passengers.

I heard it will be initially used in the Iloilo-Guimaras route which experienced a knee-jerk response after three motor bancas went down in a single day a few weeks ago and MARINA, the country’s maritime agency and the Department of Transportation diverted many ferries to the route after they suspended the voyages of the Iloilo-Guimaras motor bancas.

I just wonder how long will the Starlite fastcraft will stay in the route as the transferred ferries have to charge double or more than double than the motor bancas and with that it is not even assured that they will break even. Really, it is hard to replace the cheap and cheap-to-acquire-and-operate motor bancas although there is no question that they are less safe than the other types of ferries.

As for the final route of the new Starlite fastcraft, I am not sure where it will be. However, a new ferry is always good news to our maritime industry.

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N.B. Photos courtesy of the broker – Fred Li