Local carriers debunk monopoly with Nenaco’s acquisition of ATS

Local carriers expect no monopoly in the local shipping industry with the recent acquisition of Aboitiz Transport System (ATS) by Negros Navigation Co. (Nenaco). The two firms finally sealed the deal on December 28, 2010, or a month earlier than their mid-January target.

The carriers claimed that the industry would remain level as the bulk of the country’s cargo traffic will still be controlled by other shipping lines and only a modest percentage of the pie can be controlled by the Nenaco-ATS.

However, they see a bit of a monopoly in the passage sector as both firms controlling majority of the market even prior to the sale agreement leaving only Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. (formerly Sulpicio) to hoist competition if eventually allowed by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) to again carry passengers.

“There will still be a level playing field as far as the cargo industry is concerned,” a source from the Philippine Liner Shipping Associa­tion (PLSA) said.

“Even in the passage industry, there will be enough competition brought about by the Ro-Ro industry but in the long-haul, maybe we could say that the two firms can control the market,” the source added.

“The other positive thing going for the cargo industry is the transfer of ownership of the MCC Transport from ATS to Nenaco, mean­ing, there would be conflicts with the local carriers with regards to the number of for­eign-flag operated by MCC Transport in the local trade,” the source added.

The source explained that Nenaco promised that MCC Transport would comply with the country’s Cabotage Law and would operate only Philippine-registered vessels really in­tended for the local trade.

As of the moment, the other five member lines of PLSA that include Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp., NMC Container Lines, Lorenzo Shipping Corp., Oceanic Shipping Lines and Solid Shipping Corp. control about 70-80% of the total local cargo volume while Negros Navigation controls about 10% and ATS about 10-15%.

However, MCC Transport has started to eat up about 10% of the transit cargo market of the five carriers after the joint venture com­pany with Maersk introduced more vessel calls in the country last year through a special permit issued by the Marina. The Special Per­mit allowed MCC Transport-operated foreign carriers to trade locally due to what the Au­thority deemed as lacking in local bottoms.

In the passage sector, majority of passengers or about 40% prefer to use ATS vessels while about 20% prefer Negros Navigation while the remaining percentage is traveling via the Ro-Ro highway.

To date, local cargo volume are still below pre-crisis level but is slowly recovering from the effects of the crisis with the strong vol­ume from the South particularly coming from Davao, General Santos, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Zamboanga and Bacolod.

As of the moment, Nenaco operates eight vessels and serves 13 ports of call. ATS, on the other hand, operates 18 vessels, a com­bination of ropax, fast ferries and freighters, and has 19 ports of call.