Port Congestion and Smarter Quick Solutions

The country’s import shipments toward the holiday season could face delays due to unprecedented demand and congestion at some of the world’s major ports.

Philippine Ports Authority general manager Jay Santiago said while utilization at the Port of Manila remains quite low compared to previous years at 60 percent, there are prevailing disruptions in global container shipping that could disrupt the country’s imports.

Santiago said shipping lines are currently focusing heavily on China and concentrating container traffic there, resulting in container shortages in other locations.

“Any disruption or delay in our imports toward the holidays will depend on the efficiency of our importers if they will book slots with shipping lines early on in time for the holidays,” he said.

Shipping rates have been soaring due to container box shortages and port congestions as pandemic-related operational disruptions have extended container ships’ turnaround times.

The situation in the global shipping industry was further worsened by an accident in the Suez Canal, where a 224,000-ton vessel got stuck last March.

Resolving the Port Congestion

Maximum Stay Period of Empty Containers

BOC is also committed to making efforts to maximize utilization of the container ports by disallowing extension of the empty containers for over 90 days. Prior to this, empty containers can stay beyond 90 days up to 120 days subject to application and approval on the merits of the documentation and acceptability of the reasons for the prolonged stay.

Container Yards Outside Metro Manila

The Bureau of Customs urges shipping lines to utilize container yards outside Metro Manila to story their empty containers. BOC Commissioner Isidro Lapena recommended Pacific Road Link Company located in Angat, Bulacan and there is another one in Laguna.

Sale of Container Vans

Aside from imposing penalties and surcharges against companies with overstaying empty containers at the ports, the Bureau of Customs district and port collectors may confiscate these containers under Section 2530 of Tariff and Customs Code.

An average 20ft. container is being sold at Php85,000.00 and Php110,000.00 for 40ft. at online buying sites. These containers can be repurposed and can bring benefit to individuals and companies.

Empty containers occupying a large area in container ports is not an isolated dilemma in the Philippines. It is a concern of the biggest ports in the USA, China, and other parts of the world.

These are the different ways we can utilize and minimize the number of empty containers in our ports:

What to Do With Empty Containers?

1.    Low-Cost Housing
In one way or another, you may have encountered US-based TV programs leveraging on container vans as a form of low-cost housing. It is not only practical and economical, but it also helps the environment get rid on non-biodegradable components of the container van itself.

In the Philippines, there is Citihub. A social enterprise that aims to eradicate homelessness and provide sustainable, comfortable and affordable rental rooms to low-cost income earners for as low as Php1,700.00 per month. It started in Mandaluyong and immediately followed by new sites in Balintawak, Sta. Mesa and Cainta.

Credits to Citihub

You can also build your own container house if you have a small lot. Here’s a sample container house design:

Credits to: Containerhouse.com and Giant Containers

2.    Offices
For startups and small-medium enterprise, investing on infrastructure assets may not be easy on the cash flow. Considering container offices can be your minimalist office goal.

Did we hold office in a container van in the past? We can include it here and we can incorporate a brief backstory.

Credits to: Giant Containers

3.    Fastfood on Wheels
Conducting a feasibility study on putting up a fast food or restaurant in different locations? Why not make it simple and easy to relocate when the testing period is done. Like this:


Credits to: Giant Containers

4.    Clinic/Hospital on Wheels
This disaster response containers of the Canadian Red Cross is ready to serve Canadians 24/7

Credits to Giant Containers

5.    Schools
Putting up a school and laboratory using a container van can resolve the student to classroom ratio problems of the country. Here’s a set-up made by the Military for Lumad students in 2016:


6.    Food Park
Food parks are becoming a trend in the Philippines. The laid-back vibe, live music and plenty of food options are the top reasons why people go here to chill and dine


Credits to: The Foodtruck Manila

7.    Pop-up Retail Stores
You may also find your favorite brands testing the market in your location or setting up a temporary pop-up store while the main one is undergoing renovation.


Credits to: Giant Containers

The best way to acquire empty container vans is through the Bureau of Customs to make sure that the empty container vans you are getting are free from penalties and other liabilities.

Final thoughts:

Container yard congestion may be inevitable for a growing economy. But if the congestion is caused by empty container vans, it can be counterproductive and can affect shipments coming in through our ports. This can be resolved with proper implementation of the rules covering the allowable duration of stay of these empty containers in our ports.

The Government through the BOC can also find ways to generate income from the overstaying empty containers by strictly monitoring and imposing fines. They can also seize and sell empty containers or complement housing, education and other infrastructure requirements by utilizing these empty containers. We can bring the basic services needed by low-income earners you can’t even afford through low-cost and sustainable housing, schools and clinics. 

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