Islandhopping 101: Guides and Tips On Your Trip in a Ferry Boat

A fun and inexpensive way to do Island hopping in this country.

“The trail is the thing, not the thrill of the trail. Travel too fast and you’ll miss what you’re travelling for.”

– Louise le’ Amour

Are you one of those people who dream of going on a holiday trip to far away land, but worries over the cost of getting there… at your dream destination? Do you often wonder what was it like cruising on-board a ship? – and feel the gentle summer breeze, while smothering the salty warmth air at sundeck as you anxiously scanning the horizon waiting for the right moment before pressing the shutter button of your camera. I say wonder no more! traveling on a ferry boat is a lot cheaper and more exciting than flying a commercial aircraft. Imagine cruising for an hour to a day or two, then after inspiring evening spending on the loneliness of the turbulent sea you woke up and saw your dream destination slowly coming at you almost within arms length, isn’t it a melo-dramatic like epic of some sort? Whatever.

Island hopping is a trend nowadays for young and not so young generation of adventure seekers who’s not really on a tight schedule and doesn’t mind being in a slow boat while it cruises the sea heading to the summer get-away islands of Cebu, Bohol,  Boracay, Siquijor, Palawan and many more.

Below are list of my own tips, guide, and suggestion on how to Do It Yourself  (DIY) island hopping adventure via ferry boat. These information are based on my experiences while on-board a ferry on a countless years of traveling, covering wide sort of passenger ships/boats plying on different ports in this country. You as first time ferry traveler will gained insight and ideas on what to expect on buying a ticket, to getting around the ferry terminal, on boarding and dis-embarking a boat, and most importantly getting your way in and out of the pier safely.

First Three Important Tips

  1. Ferry travel in a Philippine setting is far more different from that of American or European standard on sea travel. Why so? head further to learn more about it.
  2. Be prepared. Do some research about Philippine culture, tradition, the settings, its people, and most importantly the weather (click it here).
  3. Island hopping via ferry boat is generally safe- the country’s Maritime Safety Standard have been improved over the years- so need not to worry. It can be tiring and boring especially during long voyage, but rest assured that upon arrival on each and every destination you will be awed with what every Island can offer.

Eager for more? here it goes.

One of the many outrigger boats found in Boracay  Island.

On Choosing a Ferry, Delays, and Cancellation of Trip

  1. There are ferry-boats that carries passengers and cargoes, and connects to one or more islands in a single trip.
  2. There are long distance passenger ferries that regularly sails from either Manila or Batangas, with destination to major ports in the Visayas, and Mindanao. Overnight ferries, on the other hand, sails to and from Port of Cebu, Batangas, and other ports along Vis-Min area for example falls to this category. Whereas, short-distance ferries usually travels less than an hour or to more than hour,  from one island connecting another island.
  3. Meanwhile, medium to large sized ferry boats are typically the RORO (Roll on-Roll off) type of vessel that carries passengers and rolling cargoes. These types of boats are commonly used in a long or short distance haul.
  4. Medium sized freighter like ferry-boats on the other hand, has a forward crane mast generally used to haul palatalized cargoes. These boats by the way accommodates passengers on a short trip, some on an overnight trip.
  5. Small ferry boats normally are those single hulled or catamaran fast craft that you may often see in Port of Batangas or in Cebu Port. These type of boats are the most convenient among the last two mentioned type of boats as it is fast, on-time and comfortable, although the drawback is its not so cheap fare tickets. There are also motorized outrigger boats that plies on a regular short distance route and can take passengers on a daily basis, they are normally cheap, often slow and uncomfortable especially when crossing a rough sea.
  6. When buying a ticket, there is one or more accommodation to choose from. The more expensive are the one that offers first class amenities (a Filipino standard amenities), the least expensive are mostly preferred by locals but it usually has minor inconveniences for passengers.
  7. Most ferry companies doesn’t have website, but many of them does have Facebook page wherein you may inquire or view their posted schedule.
  8. Most ferry companies doesn’t have online booking arrangement either.
  9. Foreign tourist planning their travel itinerary and would want to try a ferry trip may book in advanced through travel agencies which are often found over the net.
  10. For locals, buying a ticket is usually done on a ticketing office or booth found on every port, and even inside a shopping malls located on a major thoroughfare of a city.
  11. Tickets are commonly issued hours before departure, sometimes a few minutes before the vessel departs. As a general rule tickets are sold at first come first served basis.
  12. Buying a ticket at least a day or week ahead will save you from long queue of people, and usually tickets are priced lower.
  13. Ticketing offices/booth does not accept credit or debit cards.
  14. If you’re traveling on holiday season (particularly Christmas and Lenten vacation , long-weekend, etc), I recommend you to secure your ticket as early as you can. Tickets during this time are often hard to find or none at all, sometimes tickets double its price-why am I not surprised! And more often the inexpensive economy accommodations are fully book, and you will likely opted to buy the first class tickets instead.  FYI: Port of Cebu, Port of Batangas, and Port of Matnog in Sorsogon, Caticlan Jetty Port are few of the many ports in the country with heavy concentration of passengers during holidays so expect some delays, long queuing lines and crowded terminals during this time.
  15. Tickets by the way are refundable and re-bookable, but seldom re-routable. Normally refunds are subject to fees, and honored only in a ticketing office where you actually bought it.
  16. Tickets does not include terminal fees.
  17. A purchased ticket may include charges for Insurance fee, government tax, fuel surcharge and other fees. It may also include Filipino meal for long distance route. You may chose not to pay the fees for the meal should you prefer, just inform the ticket issuing officer ahead.
  18. Normally toddlers, elderly person, and person with disabilities are subject to discounted tickets. Foreign tourist/travelers unfortunately are not covered on these privileges.
  19. You can transport your motorized vehicle from one island to another island with ease, just bring those necessary papers and have it all photocopied.
  20. Ferry schedules are posted here in Islandhopping Geek’s Travel Guide, they are all updated every now and then.
  21. Bringing pets is possible, just secure a permit to carry from the Bureau of Plants and Animal Industry’s office found near every port. Reminders: office hour’s is until 5 PM,  and to my surprise there were no fees for my pet when I requested for a clearance.
  22. Some ferry company charges you a minimal fee for every pet or animals brought on-board.
  23. If you’ve been notified ahead that your planned trip were cancelled due to non availability of a ship… don’t get surprised! most likely the ship undergoes repair.  You see almost all ferry boats plying between every port in this country are old, and acquired second-hand from Japan.
  24. More often, areas affected by weather disturbances would likely caused shipping delays on departures and arrivals. Expect trips will likely be cancelled for a day to a week should the government’s weather agency PAGASA, declares storm strength as it is approaching a land mass- it can be heard all over radio and television station nationwide, better have Plan B set aside.
  25. Delays on departure or arrival can also be attributed to cargo loading and unloading process. Cargoes by the way are the lifeline for every RO-RO boats plying on every route, more often these ferry boats carries a full load of vehicles on its cargo bay to compensate for their expenses- indeed a long waiting time for passengers.

    CPA's Passenger Terminal Building

    CPA’s Passenger Terminal Building

    On Getting Your Way To These Seaports

  26. The convenient way going to a major ports like the one in Manila, Cebu, or Davao is through taxicab. Normally the cost of flagging down a taxi depends on what was on the taxi meter’s display, other taxi driver may charged you for a  fix price which is normally expensive especially if you’re a foreigner-don’t bite it if I were you; try to find a taxicab that would rather charge you based on what was on the taxi meter’s rate.
  27. Ordinary metered taxi (white) from NAIA terminals to North Harbor Port Terminal would normally cost in between 300 to 500 pesos, that’s if it never encounters heavy traffic; it may also cost you a little more during late at night. Whereas airport taxi (yellow) will cost you double than the normal but you can be assured by their well mannered and professional service. You may check the link here to learn more about taxicab fare rate.
  28. However port access on a smaller cities are conveniently reached through public transport such as Jeepney, multi-cabs, tricycles and commuter buses. Fares for this vehicle are per person or per trip basis.
  29. There are uniformed porters inside the terminal area ready to assist every passengers.  Manila North Harbor Terminal by the way regulates the collection of fees to passengers for every baggage checked-in, so no need to haggle for the price for each of the porter’s services. Other port does not have such arrangement like in Manila so the rule is you need to find amicable deals.
  30. If you happen to take the services of these porters make sure you have his name, or the number of his uniform, or at least remember his face, after all you are entrusting your belonging in his hands…don’t get too confident.
  31. Before entering into a passenger terminal, you will be required to present your boarding ticket together with the terminal fee (ticket).
  32. Terminal fee will cost from fifteen pesos to a hundred pesos more depending on a port terminal.
  33. Terminal tickets are issued only to passengers.
  34. Major ports have spacious passenger terminal building, with modern facilities to handle and accommodate large numbers of passengers on a given time.
  35. During holiday rush and weather disturbances, ship’s  schedules changes more often thereby resulting to delays and cancellation of trip; passenger terminal building- on this situation- are normally busy accommodating crowds of stranded passengers. These passengers often littered on a terminal’s benches, floors, and corners together with their baggages, luggages, and boxes they brought in; and most likely a hundred more passengers are waiting outside eager to get inside the building .
  36. Arrived three hours ahead of scheduled departure. When I was island hopping in Palawan a month ago, I was actually at the terminal six hours ahead of the scheduled departure. Later on after spending five hours in the terminal waiting for a boat, a ferry company representative went to announced that the boat’s arrival would be delayed for another more hours (what a poor Press Released). It turned out that the announced “more hours” of delay means it would reach to agonizing 12 hours of waiting until the boat departed from the port.
  37. Is these are the normal settings? I remember I was once asked by a confused foreign couple the same question, honestly, in such circumstance wherein weather is the main caused I’m looking at it as a normal phenomena. The best thing to do when your in such unbelievable situation, is to ready your option A and C, which is to either wait or ask for refund. 
  38. Most of the ports implements port security; expect your bags, luggage and other things you brought in with you are gonna be checked and subjected to thermal scanners. Passengers will be required to undergo metal detector and body frisking as well.
  39. Filipinos loved to travel that’s the fact. If you find them around jolly and very friendly- sometimes noisy to the point it would distract other passengers- some are walking back and forth endlessly, while others are laughing to the point it would annoy fellow passengers… just relax they’re just  too eager to board a ship, you see almost all of us pinoy are first time ferry boat travelers. 

    Expect long queuing lines during peak season

    Boarding a Ferry Boat

  40. During boarding calls almost all Pinoy travelers would want to board a ship as quickest as possible… too eager as I noticed. Some would resort to pushing and hustling with one another, others will create their own lines instead of following what was the normal queuing lines… while foreigners calls it “Chaotic”, I call it culture. You have to understand that these Filipino travelers do not have the luxury to travel more often, so they have this tendency to get too excited on a feeling of what was like traveling on a ship. Why join the euphoria? relax and wait till the situation calms down.     
  41. Don’t lose your ticket.
  42. Always carry your ticket with you.
  43. Your seat or bunk assignment will be based on what was indicated on your ticket. If someone other than you occupies your assigned seat or bed, tell the boat crew.
  44. If you’re on economy accommodation then expect that you will be staying for the rest of your journey together with the other passengers on a non-air-conditioned, crowded, noisy, and a bit of chaotic surrounding.
  45. Why chaotic? Most of foreign travelers on a first time ferry trip didn’t expect what was it like being on a budget accommodation. Actually for us locals what was in there were pretty normal…you would be sleeping with fellow fellow human being on an inch apart- more often than, you will be sleeping side by side with people who snores and cough like a German guard dog. Families with kids often running here and there sometimes knocking out things; annoying passengers keep on talking, laughing, and singing on a videoke machine in the middle of the night; ship’s engine is quite noisy especially if your near rear section. Others are eating in front of you and not on a dining or mess hall; luggage’s, boxes, pets, electronic appliances and other household stuff are blocking your way almost like occupying the entire ship.
  46. And oh, you might wondering why do most Filipinos carries almost every stuff inside their house when they travel? That was a question asked by a puzzled foreign guy…a question were only Filipino travelers knows the exact answer.
  47. Never leave your bag open or display any valuables – laptop, smartphone, jewelry, money- to anyone especially if your on a crowded room or public places (a disaster waiting to happen).
  48. Person with disability will find it a little difficult while on-board a ferry as most do not have facilities that would address their needs.

    Sometimes you have to deal with reality…toilets are closed and under repair.

    Sanitation & Hygiene

  49. Here’s more…you wish to use a toilet (“loo”, “john”, or “room 100” as what foreigners call it) and you’ll be stunned with what you see when opening the door. If you’re traveling on a ferry carrying a hundred to a thousands of passengers, then expect that most of the hundreds of passengers before you will be using the same toilet room on a given time. Most ferry does not have dedicated crew whose task is to clean the toilet every now and then.
  50. If you are traveling on an overnight ferry, the best time to visit the toilet is during late at night wherein almost all people are asleep, and more likely toilets are cleaned and sanitized.
  51. If you’re traveling on a short distance trip and you can’t live with the toilet, try to hold on it for a while. Or visit a comfortable toilet before boarding a ferry boat.
  52. Almost all toilet found on every ferry do not have hand soap in a soap dispenser, neither do have any toilet paper on its tissue paper holder.
  53. Expect that toilet flush isn’t working, more likely you will be using a bucket!
  54. Toilet exhaust fan maybe working maybe not.
  55. Neither have any hand washing facilities near mess area, more often you need to visit toilet room to wash your hand.
  56. The general practice is you bring your own toiletries or buy it in a store on-board.
  57. Let me reiterate that what you pay is what you get. You choose for a budget accommodation then expect those mentioned above inconveniences.
  58. But if you wish to venture for more comfortable and relaxing trip on board you may upgrade to cabin or suite accommodation, rest assure you wil have the luxury and the privacy on your entire trip.
  59. Meals are not free unless stated on your ticket. Meals serve are often local dish of various taste and style, first class dining offers better meal experience suitable for tourist and well to do passengers . On-board stores offers snacks, sodas, instant coffee, and more choices of instant noodles- hey, don’t ask me why first thing you would notice on an on-board stores is nothing but instant noodles, I, too, get puzzled.                                                                                                                                                                              

     “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”– James Michener

    Got a good camera? moments such as this are worthy of a snapshot.

    What to Bring On-Board

  60. Bring ear plugs or earphones. This may help you sleep soundly even on a noisy environment.
  61. Buy pack meals, snacks, bottled water, motion sickness tablets, and toiletries while your in the city. On-board store sell this stuff but often at higher price.
  62. Smartphone or your ordinary phone. Smartphone will help your kids ease their boredom on a long distance trip, especially if they can play their favorite games.
  63. You can bring your cellphone charger and have it hook-up on a wall socket on-board. Just ask the crew where you can safely plug it.
  64. Telephones services by the way (i.e. Calls, SMS, and 3G mobile internet) can also be access even far shore- usually your phone may pick a not too strong signal but good enough to send or receive a text message. Often a 3G signal will only be picked-up by your smartphone only if there is an island nearby.
  65. Identification papers in case you need it.                         
    Zaragoza Gate Pier 4 Manila North Harbor.

    Zaragoza Gate Pier 4 Manila North Harbor.

    Upon Arrival

  66. Check your belongings especially when dis-embarking a boat, make sure that all things are within your reach.
  67. Arrival on a daylight posed no difficulty when finding a public vehicle going to a city. During late at night things maybe difficult especially when few public transport vehicles are found, most if not all will charge you high. The best thing to do (if you think fare is too stiff and not safe to travel at night) is to stay for a while at the port’s passenger terminal until daylight.
  68. Arrival at night in Manila is a bit of a test for those first timer especially for foreign tourist coming from Palawan or Cebu. Once outside Zaragoza Gate of the Manila North Harbor you will find  hundreds of passengers looking for a transportation just like you do; public transport like jeepneys are common here and most have different route with different fare, some will charge you minimum while others will charge double. Just ask the driver how much would be the cost before boarding any of these jeepneys. Be alert of snatchers and crooks lurking around.
  69. If you’re heading to the NAIA terminal’s 1 & 2 or at any of those hotels in Makati, Pasay or Manila, it’s better to take a taxicab as public transport like jeepney or buses are not available for this route. Again if you can find a taxi that is willing to charge you based on what was on the taxi meter’s reading the better, if not try to haggle for a better deal.
  70. If your boarding a vessel from Caticlan (Aklan), Romblon, Puerto Galera or Calapan in Oriental Mindoro and you wish to travel to Manila, the easiest way is through the numerous ferry boats that connects these provinces to the Port of Batangas. Upon arrival on this modern port located in Batangas City several bus companies (almost all of them offers air-conditioned buses) are waiting outside the terminal round the clock, some bus will take you to Alabang in Muntinlupa, others will go to Cubao in Quezon City, but most buses will end up to Buendia in Pasay City. There are a good bus competition around here so expect each bus company will offers nice and well air-conditioned coach, a well mannered driver and conductor, and a cheap fare.

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”

 ― Clifton Fadiman

That’s it for now. If you have questions feel free to comment here, if you think this blog help  please do share it!  Thanks.

Featured Philippine Ports: The Manila North Harbor

Manila North Harbor Sunset view

Manila North Harbor’s sunset view.


The flow of local products in the market  are primarily done through water, air, and land transport-amongst the three, water transport are the most utilized. Considering the archipelagic setting of the country, domestic shipping industry are the most important  structural support for the nation’s economy. Shipping industry provides the means for inter-island transport, be that of transporting goods from one port to another, or transporting people to various islands far beyond the reach of air travel. Sea transport are viewed by many ordinary Filipinos as cost efficient as compared to air and land vehicles.

Port of Manila facilitates the flow of people and products in between the center of industries in the country, and various strategic ports in the southern region thru its modern port facilities. Finish product made by various manufacturing companies in the National Capital Region, and imported products coming from different parts of the world comes and goes here everyday-with projected annual container traffic of about three million TEU’s. Moreover, sea-going public  uses the port’s newest passenger terminal facility to get to their destination in the province south from here.  Port of Manila also served as major entry for people, and Agri-marine products coming from Visayas and Mindanao region.

PORT OF ENTRY: Manila North Harbor

Manila North Harbor by the way belong to the Port of Manila, the country’s link to major cities of the world, and the junction of domestic and international trade. Metro Manila’s domestic shipping is centered entirely in North Harbor facilities, located in the shores of  Tondo- northeast of the Manila International Container Port along the eastern part of Manila bay. Entrance to Manila Bay on the other hand is between the south approach of  El FraileCorregidor Island, and the north approach of Caballo Island. These sea-channel approach is about two miles (3.2 km) towards the north, and six and a half miles (10.5 km) wide on the south side. Its Geographical coordinates consist of the ff:

22° 17′ 46″ North, and 114° 11′ 25″ East

North Harbor-being smaller than that of  the South Harbor in terms of annual cargo/container traffic, has a total quay length of around 52 hundred meters, and a total of 41 berths along its various Piers, and Slips. These Port connects every major, and minor ports/wharves located in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao region. Accessible via the Radial road (R-10) from Navotas City, and Roxas Boulevard via Delpan (Roxas) Bridge. 

Manila North Harbor’s facilities are created with the sole purpose of serving the growing domestic passenger, and cargo shipping activities within the country. It form part of Manila Port’s backbone, which includes  Manila South Harbor,  Manila International Container Terminal , Harbor Centre Port Terminal, and the Port facilities located along the banks of Pasig River extending to Jones bridge in Binondo Manila.

The Operation and Administration of the Manila North Harbor were transferred to the Philippine Ports Authority from the Bureau of Customs on December 23, 1975 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 857, signed by then former President Ferdinand Marcos.

Vitas Port in Tondo on the other hand, were declared  part of the North Harbor Custom Zone by virtue of Executive Order nos.297 dated March 4, 1971.

Vitas Port

Cargo vessel bound for Basco Batanes as seen here at Vitas Port.

On November 26, 1981 the whole of Vitas area  bounded by Pier 18 in the north, Radial road 10 in the east, the Marine Slipway area in the south, and Vitas rock bulkhead in the west have been transferred and placed under the administration of the Philippine Ports Authority by virtue of Executive Order nos. 749, also signed by President Marcos.


Construction of North Harbor begins in 1937, and during this time all domestic inter-island ships/boats of small tonnage anchors along the Pasig river banks. In 1941 Piers 2, 4, 6, and 8 have been all completed thereby shipping activities gradually shifted in the  North Harbor. Before the outbreak of hostilities in World War II,  Manila Port’s North Harbor has the following port improvements namely;

Pier 2, 4, 6, and 8, both of which had 80.43 meters wide x 220.25 meters long pier platform.

To render the docks safe for ships while at berth or during anchorage, a 1300 meters long x 3 meters wide North Harbor breakwater have been constructed, and a 179.71 meters wide dock or slipway in between these piers.

On the other hand, the completion of three other piers namely Piers 10, 12, and 14 were interrupted by the war.


During the escalation of war,  these harbor installation were subjected to extensive bombings, and air-raids by Japanese Invasion Forces and later by US Liberation Forces. Although compared to the nearby South Harbor, the piers along North Harbor suffered less damages due to perhaps less penetration or concentration of bombs and other explosive ordinance directed to this area. North Harbor and the rest of Manila Port were not usable for shipping until April 1945, due to harbor obstructions and port facility damages.

Immediately after the liberation of Manila,  US Corps of Engineers known as “MANED” under the consultation with the Philippine Port Commission undertook repairs to the existing piers. Damaged portions of the piers were replaced with timber deck on timber piles, some piers were lengthened by providing additional berthing spaces at both end. Obstruction to navigation along the channel leading to this piers where removed while dredging of the channels are conducted by the elements of US Army, and the Navy.

On September of 1947, US Army then turned over the North Harbor facilities to the Philippine Government. The Division of Ports and Harbors of the Bureau of Public Works took charge of the construction, repair, and maintenance of this pier.


The Port Management Office-North Harbor (PMO – NH) were created on July 1988, as one of the port management offices under the administrative and operational jurisdiction of the Port District Office of Manila. PDO Manila as it was known, on the other hand, is one of the five (5) major port district offices under the Philippine Ports Authority, a government–owned corporation created under Presidential Decree No. 505 dated 11th of July 1974, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 857 and further amended by Executive Order Nos. 513, 546 and 159.

PMO-North Harbor is headed by a Port Manager and has full jurisdiction over the following:

Piers 2 (Negros Navigation) and Isla Puting Bato.

MV Asuncion docked here at Isla Puting Bato Port

Pier 4 (Gothong Southern, and North Harbor Tugs Corp.).

Pier 6 (MORETA Shipping Lines, Romblon Shipping Lines).

M/V 7107 Island Cruise at Pier 6.

M/V 7107 Island Cruise at Pier 6.

 Pier 8 (Solid Shipping Lines).

 Pier 10 (Lorenzo Shipping Lines and Gothong Lines).

 Pier 12 PSACC (former Sulpicio Lines).

 Pier 14 (Oceanic Lines, Loadstar Shipping Lines).

 Pier 16 (Escano Shipping Lines).

 Pier 18 Vitas Port.

Marine Slip Way (MSW).

Harbour Centre Port Terminal

Harbour Centre Port Terminal

The Harbour Centre Port Terminal (HCPTI) on the other hand, is a  private commercial  port  located North of Pier 18 in Vitas Tondo, several meters from the former dumpsite of the metro known and  identified as Smokey mountain (dumpsite of the Metro in the 80’s and 90’s). HCPTI has a spacious 79 hectares  facilities that complements the government owned ports particularly North and South  Harbor. The Harbour Centre Port  facilities handles cold/ hot rolled coils, wire rod coils, H-beams, Steel pipes and billets, grains and non-grains, rice, fertilizers, and raw sugar shipped from foreign or domestic sources.  Its Geographical coordinates consist of the following:

   14°37’55″N   120°57’1″E.

PPA Board Resolution Nos. 1976 issued on November 13, 2003 allows Harbour Port (formerly R-II Builders, Inc.) to operate only as foreign non-containerized cargoes, and non-containerized vessels. In addition to that,  it also granted to operate as a commercial private port and accommodate all types of domestic vessels and cargoes. Prior to the entry of Harbour Centre Port Terminal in 1996, PPA were the only operator of the Ports of Manila.

Meanwhile, there are two significant events brought about major changes in the operations of PMO-North Harbor. First on June 19, 2000,  jurisdiction over the Terminal Ports of Lamao and Mariveles in the Province of Bataan were transferred from PMO North Harbor to PMO – Bataan. Second major changes was on the 16th of April 2000, wherein Port Authority- precipitated by a threat of strike, issued PPA Memorandum Order No. 07-2000 creating the North Harbor Port Services (NHPS) that took over the operations of four private cargo handling operators, namely:

  1. United Dockhandlers, Inc. formerly servicing Piers 6, 12, 14 and 16;
  2. Pier 8 Arrastre and Stevedoring formerly servicing Pier 8;
  3. Veterans Shipyard Corporation, formerly servicing Marine Slipway (MSW);
  4. Interport Stevedoring and Arrastre Services, formerly servicing Isla Puting Bato (IPB).

The government’s National Port Plan were conceptualized during early years of North Harbor’s existence were it said it will developed its capability to handle large domestic vessels, construction of sufficient back-up/storage facilities  to accomodate  large  volume of container vans, and other cargoes. Passenger terminals and container facilities along Pier 2 (Negros Navigation), Pier 4 (Aboitiz), Pier 6 and 8 (Gothong, Sweet Lines, and Moreta Shipping Lines), Pier 12 (Sulpicio Lines), and Pier 14  (William Lines) were then constructed and/or improved to meet the needs of port users and sea-going customers.

In 1999, as a result of the increased cargo and vessel traffic, PMO North Harbor generated gross revenues of P468.3 million or P20 million more than the 1998 revenues.

















CARGO THROUGHPUT in m.t (Domestic & Foreign)










Source: PPA /Port Statistics 


On June of 2006 marks the completion and official turn-over to Port District Office- Manila, of the Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS). The said project aims  to establish a system of identifying, tracking, monitoring of all marine vessel activities, and to promote safer, more efficient navigation. The VTMS Project began in May of 2004 immediately with the award of the contract to F.F. Cruz/Japan Radio Co. The completed facilities in three locations-  the MICT, Manila North Harbor, and Corregidor Island. It consist of a six-story building with 42 meters structural steel tower, 18-meter cylindrical concrete structure with electronic and generator room, and a 35-meter cylindrical concrete structure with three-story building at the highest.


Philippine Ports Authority awarded the P14.5-billion, 25-years modernization project (renewable for another 25 years) to the sole bidder Manila North Harbour Port, Inc. (MNHPI)- a joint venture between  Harbour Centre Port Holdings Inc. (HCPHI) and a diversified conglomerate of San Miguel Corporation, on the 19th of November 2009. Took over commenced on the 12th of April 2010, or five months after the contract were signed between the parties involved.

The said project will modernize the Manila North Harbor through the operation and management of its various facilities serviced by MNHPI as port operator, in a build-operate-transfer (BOT) term arrangement with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA). The project aims include among others:

  1. The development (Construction) of world class terminal facilities, including the provision of the state-of-the-art equipment, and guarantee the repair and maintenance of the said equipment and facilities without any cost to the government.

  2. To achieve the maximum level of port efficiency at the most reasonable and competitive price in the provision of port services to the port users and the general public.

  3. To allocate funds for the amortization of existing loans for North Harbor and attain/sustain reasonable return on the PPA investment in all facilities.

Scenic view of Pier 4 before its improvement

Scenic view of Pier 4 before its improvement (Year: 2011).

On June of 2012, a groundbreaking ceremony were held for the construction of the new Passenger Terminal Building (PTB)- it aimed to consolidate passenger operations within the confines of Pier 2 and 4. The said project would also replaced the old passenger terminal building found in Pier 4, which used to be the based of operation of former shipping giant the William Gothong, and Aboitiz Inc. (W G & A) during their merger in 1995.

Upon completion, the sprawling North Port Passenger Terminal Complex is considered the country’s most modern facility of its kind, built solely by Manila North Harbour Port Inc. (MNHPI); it aimed to promote safety and security, convenience and efficiency, and most especially comforts for its passengers and other port users. Designed to conform International Standards, the said terminal complex (cost around P200 million to build) is located in a 12,000-square meters complex  were a  two-story fully air-conditioned main building that houses  a 1,900 seating capacity expandable to 3,800 seating capacity.

Passenger amenities also includes a prayer room; a play room; nursing and diaper-change rooms; a clinic, and food kiosk while awaiting for boarding calls. Security equipment in the form of x-ray baggage scanners matching the norms in the airline sector are among other features. Outside the building are ticketing area/concessions,  spacious drop-offs, and parking area for motor vehicles.

Scenic view of Pier 4 after its improvement. (Year:2013)

Scenic view of Pier 4 after its improvement. (Year:2013)

After a year of construction, it held an initial soft opening on May of 2013. Six months after, on November of the same year the said passenger terminal was inaugurated by officers of MNHPI, and government officials led by Department of Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya.

On related upgrading of the North Harbor facilities,  MNHPI’s  P7.8-billion investments on port infrastructure, equipment and information technology is ongoing. A 480 million pesos worth of cargo handling equipment have been recently  delivered at the port- this were two units of container cranes to complement the port’s existing two units, whereas the 12 rubber-tired gantry cranes are set to arrive early next year.

North Harbor’s 53-hectare facility can accommodate over 300 vessels a month or almost 4000 ships yearly, with zero queuing time as it offers a total of 46 berths and 660 meters of which is a continuous quay lane, served by container cranes with state of the art computerized operations including the latest Navis SPARCS-N4 or Synchronous Planning and Real Time Control System, a globally recognized terminal operating system developed by Navis Corporation of Oakland, California.


  3. Competition Policy and Regulation in Ports and Shipping by Gilberto M. Llanto, Enrico L.  Basilio and Leilanie Basilio
  5. Philippine Ports Authority/Port Statistics 
  9. Port of Manila and other Philippine Ports, Yearbook 1949.
  10. Philippine Ports Authority

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