Eyeing Port of Surigao’s operations

One of our AIS-receiving station operators in Philippines shares how MarineTraffic has helped him and his team

Aerial photo of the Port of Surigao of Surigao City, Philippines

This port is located on the northeastern coast of Mindanao island of the Philippines. It is a government-operated port under Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

Even though it is a small port, they own and operate their own AIS equipment. We were glad to connect with Mr. Nusog who is very helpful for us to understand what some of the port’s problems, goals and objectives are.

Mr. Nusog (photo below), is a key player in the Port of Surigao’s operation.

Not to mention that their port has been sharing their AIS data with MarineTraffic, but also, they have other ports under their management that regularly use our online services. He personally believes that MarineTraffic is the top and most reliable AIS data provider and he sees value in putting up more stations to fill in the coverage gaps. Hence, we’ve come to an agreement to supply free AIS equipment to some other Philippine ports under PPA.

Let’s read more in our interview with Mr. Nusog about how hosting an AIS-receiving station has helped him and his team.

A voyage to the past

The idea and initiative to acquire and install an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for vessels at the Port of Surigao largely came about during the search, rescue, and retrieval operations conducted after the ill-fated M/V Maharlika II sank off Pintuyan in Southern Leyte, in the Philippine Visayas Islands on 13 September 2014 while sailing en route to the Port of Liloan from the Lipata Ferry Terminal.

Seeing AIS at work and how it made a tremendous difference in the conduct of Search and Rescue (SAR) for the MV Maharlika II, PPA Officials were convinced of the benefits of installing shore-based stations at strategic sites under PMO Surigao’s Area of Operations (AOR).

The equipment supplier who came and installed the procured AIS receiver told me about MarineTraffic. After seeing its ‘Live Map’, I immediately found it way superior to the images generated by the AIS chart plotter installed by the supplier to our personal computer.

Encouraged to explore the features offered by MarineTraffic, I eventually discovered an online service called ‘voyage history.’ It proved to be a valuable tool in determining the actual stay duration of vessels in ports, particularly for foreign-flagged vessels loading mineral products on anchorages of private ports under the Authority’s jurisdiction – and collecting the correct port charges.

AIS Data – paving the way to port operations efficiency

PMO Surigao hosts a number of private ports operated by mining companies doing business in the Provinces of Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and Dinagat Islands. Most, if not all, of these private ports, are located at a considerable distance from the PPA’s terminal management offices in the areas where these ports are located.

Furthermore, mineral products for exports are mostly loaded at anchorage. Information on the number of days required to compute port usage is solely provided by the shipping agency because manpower constraints prevent us from physically verifying whatever claims (as to port stay) made by the shipping agent.

AIS has also improved our capabilities in vessel traffic management since the Port of Surigao is not equipped with a RADAR.

In 2015, the Philippine Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) has made it mandatory for 300 gross tonnage passenger ships and 500 gross tonnage cargo ships to install a Class A AIS transponder – and imposes stiff fines and penalties for vessels operating without or a non-functional AIS transponder. Hence, it has made it easier for us to manage vessel traffic using AIS data from MarineTraffic!

Revenue-wise, the operation of AIS Stations sending data to MarineTraffic made a tremendous difference for the better. In 2016, a year after the PMO instituted the remote monitoring of vessel port stays through AIS, total income exceeded half a billion pesos for the first time since the PMO was established in 1977! With a slight dip in 2017, the PMO managed to maintain its half-billion income status in 2018 and 2019. And in 2020, even with the imposed limitations on the maritime industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic, PMO Surigao again posted its highest revenue ever.

It could be argued that since around 80% of the PMO’s annual income is derived from revenues collected from private port operations, the verifications made using the AIS/MarineTraffic system contributed much to increased/improved collection efficiency.

Transparency and safety at sea

Maintaining an AIS station helps fulfill the PPA’s mandate to foster safe navigation by monitoring harbour traffic with the end view of making it safer and making it available during Search and Rescue operations.

In addition, PPA ports at the Pacific Seaboard under PMO Surigao’s jurisdiction – adequately covered by our MarineTraffic-connected AIS stations at the Port of Surigao, Port of Dapa, and Port of Tandag – can function as ‘Ports of Refuge’ during extreme weather. With the AIS stations in place, these ports can guide AIS-tracked vessels in seeking shelter. For ports on the critical border areas, AIS can be utilised for surveillance and monitoring security situations.

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