Featured Philippine Ports: The Manila South Harbor

Manila bay sunset

Manila bay sunset as viewed here at South Harbor.


Being a maritime nation sea transports are the major means of moving various goods, and people from one island province to another. Majority of these products, and materials are either exported or imported to/from this country thru maritime exchanges. During early existence of Port of Manila, its transformation  from being the important trading center during galleon trade, to the “Trade center of the Pacific” during American colonialism, has been very significant in the eyes of experts.

Manila Port or Port of Manila as it was called today, is presently the country’s foremost gateway to foreign commerce, and is considered one of important maritime hub in Asia-Pacific region; and was envisioned by experts to be the alternative maritime center to Hongkong and Singapore.

Port Distance in Nautical Miles.

Iloilo City 340
Cebu City 392
Surigao City 459
Cagayan de Oro City 504
Davao City 821
Hong Kong SAR 637
Singapore 1,310
Japan 1,783

The Port of Manila is divided by the following sectors, namely:

  1. South Harbor (Baseport)
  2. North Harbor (Baseport)
  3. Manila International Container Terminal (MICT)
  4. Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI) 

The above listed Port Terminals are the core of Ports of Manila, and both administered by Philippine Ports Authority; a government owned and controlled corporation duly authorized by the law to develop and manage public ports, regulate port services, selection of port operators, and determination of collection levies for port related services. [1]

PORT OF ENTRY:  The Manila South Harbor 

Manila South Harbor facility is one of 123 government owned ports administered by the Philippine Ports Authority. It is a multi-cargo port with modern five-finger type pier, which handles all types of cargo, including containers, bulk cargo, break-bulk, general cargo, and vehicles. Bulk cargoes are handled at berth and at designated anchorages. South Harbor handles large chunks of international shipping traffic in the country, with annual capacity of 820,000 more or less container vans.

Former Manila Port Terminal now the office of PMO-South Harbor.

Former Manila Port Terminal now the office of PMO-South Harbor.

Port Management of South Harbor (PMO-South Harbor) is under the direct management of the Port District of Manila(PDO-Manila/North Luzon). Whereas Terminal Management Office of Pasig (TMO-Pasig) located along the Pasig river falls under the jurisdiction of PMO South Harbor.

 Port’s vehicular/pedestrian access

Main approach is through Bonifacio drive, a six lane highway of  which has accessed to the North harbor and Manila International Container Port in Tondo via Delpan bridge. The said highway also link major cities in the south like Pasay, Paranaque, and Cavite thru Roxas boulevard (formerly Dewey boulevard). Entrance to the harbor is through the four gates found at 25th street (Eva Macapagal Super Terminal, Gate 1), 16th street,13th street(Roberto S. Oca Sr. Gate), and 8th street.

Port  Characteristics

Territorial AreaSouth Harbor has been extended eastward up to Bonifacio drive, by virtue of Executive Order No. 321 issued last March 17, 1988. [2] The expansion resulted in an increased of jurisdictional area by about 26.9 hectares from 58 hectares for a total of 85 hectares excluding wharf zone. Its shoreline is protected by some 10,000 feet of rock barriers enclosing about 600 hectares of anchorage.

Geographical Coordinates:

Latitude – 14° 36.2″ N

Longitude – 120° 58.0″ E

Harbor Type:  Coastal Breakwater

Harbor Sized:  Large

Water Depth:

CHANNEL 31 – 35 feet
9.4 – 10 meters
ANCHORAGE 16 – 20 feet
4.9 – 6.1 meters
CARGO PIER 36 – 40 feet
11 – 12.2 meters
OIL TERMINAL 26 – 30 feet
7.1 – 9.1 meters

Source: World Port Source. [3]

 Port Topography

South Harbor directly faces Manila Bay, a semi-enclosed estuary facing the West Philippine Sea, and regarded as one of the best natural harbors in the pacific. Manila bay serves as the major navigational lane that accommodates all type of maritime vessels, large or small type. Container/Bulk ships coming from domestic and international port mostly dominates the sea-lanes of Manila bay; bringing with them raw materials, and/or finish goods to support the entire populace of the metro, and the entire country as well.  The bay, can be approached through an 18 kilometers wide channel  in which Corregidor, El Fraile Island, and Caballo Islands are situated. Manila bay is surrounded by Bataan Peninsula to the west, and Cavite to the south.

 Entrance Channel

South Harbor's south breakwater

South Harbor’s south breakwater

South Harbor's west breakwater

South Harbor’s west breakwater

The fairway (navigational channel) of South Harbor is about 200 meters wide and 3,000 meters long. It runs through an opening about 300 meters wide between the South and West breakwaters. The depth of the channel is approximately 11.6 meters below mean low water (MLW) or deeper along its full length. [4]

Port Facilities

Pier 3: For container vessels only, with five (5)  berths;

Pier 5: For general cargo vessel with seven (7) berths, and  18.2 hectares of container yard space; it is the primary area for container operations.

Between Pier 3, and Pier 5 is a beaching point where amphibious vessel docks. Across Pier 3 is a barge pool capable of accommodating 30 barges/lighters at any given time. [5]

Barge used to haul liquid cargo to and from Pasig River.

Barge used to haul liquid cargo to and from Pasig River.

Barging operations are regularly conducted along Pasig river. Tugs usually pulls one or two barges containing  liquid bulk like fuel, oil, chemicals, molasses, as well as wheat, and other agricultural raw products. These products coming  from either vessels moored/or anchored along South Harbor, and then transported to several manufacturing establishment found along the banks of Pasig river. [6]

Pier 9: For general cargo vessel with one (1) berth, with a total lenght of 320 meters and 10.5 meters draft.

Pier 13 South Harbor

Pier 13 South Harbor

Pier 13  formerly owned and operated by United States government for the exclusive used of its Army, and Navy vessel during post war era, are now assigned as special anchorage area for Philippine Coast Guard’s search and rescue (SAR) vessels; so does the vessel namedAng Pangulo, a then former presidential yacht (now assigned as BRP Pag-asa, and turned to a naval auxiliary vessel). A roll-on roll-off ramp can also be found in between Pier 13 and Pier 9.

Ferry service terminal on the other hand is located at slip between Pier 13 and Pier 15. It serve as landing point for small craft for ship crew, quarantine and custom officer, ship agents, and other passenger going to and from vessel at anchorage. A pilot boarding station is also located in this area. [6]

South Harbor's Pier 15

South Harbor’s Pier 15

Pier 15   has five berths suited for containerized roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) and load-on, load-off (lo-lo) operations. In this pier is the location of Eva Macapagal Super Terminal or EMST, it used to be the domestic passenger terminal when North Harbor is under going improvements. EMST by the way is popularly known as the home, and base of operation for Aboitiz Superferry- before it was acquired by Negros Navigation. Pier 15 also provides berthing facilities for cruise ships and visiting warships.

China Clipper landing marker found in Luneta Park, just a few meters from Manila Hotel.

China Clipper landing marker found in Luneta Park, just a few meters from Manila Hotel.

The headquarters of Philippine Coast Guard, can also be found here, whilst the towering Manila Hotel a stone throw away from  Muelle de San Francisco can be seen and access through a few minutes of walk . Further ahead,  maybe a hundreds of a meters from the wharf of Manila hotel-where MS Philippines  (sold as scrap two years ago)- is the location of a marker of a China Clipper seaplane landing on 29th of February 1935, see above photos.

The Eva Macapagal Super Terminal   started its operation in 2003, and  is named after the late first lady of  former President Diosdado Macapagal. These passenger terminal building is one of the country’s biggest, and most expensive passenger terminal with modern and high-tech facility, with first class amenities that caters Cruise Ship passengers to date. These 2,878 square meters facility have a 1,700 seating capacity, with fully air-conditioned lounge complete with food and beverage kiosk for hungry passengers awaiting for boarding calls; TV sets, public address system, public telephone booths, clean rest rooms, ticketing booths and a clinic with qualified medical personnel are also provided for the convenience of travelers. [7]

A view of Manila South Harbor Anchorage

A view of Manila South Harbor Anchorage

Anchorages  There are four  anchorage basins in South Harbor and are assigned as A, B, C, and Q anchorage.  A anchorage  can be found  within the confines of the South and West breakwaters;  anchorage B and C are both outside the breakwaters. Anchorage Q on the other hand can be located far off-shore, and is exclusively used for Port’s Quarantine requirements.

Port Operator

ATI Office Building located at Bonifacio Drive, South Harbor Manila.

ATI Office Building located at Bonifacio Drive, South Harbor Manila.

Asian Terminals Inc. (controlled by Dubai’s DP World) a premier seaport and logistic investor, developer, and operator in the country is the sole container terminal and multi-cargo operator of South Harbor.

Contracted by Philippine Ports Authority to render container/cargo handling services since 1992,  ATI has been awarded a new 25 year extension to its contract to “manage, develop, maintain, operate, and render container terminal handling, stevedoring, arrastre, storage, porterage, passenger terminal management, and other related services” at South Harbor until May 18, 2038.[8]

The company utilizes seven Quay Cranes (35.5 to 55 tons capacity), 19 Rubber tired Gantry Cranes (40 to 40.6 tons capacity), three Reachstackers (42 to 45 tons capacity), side-loaders, and floating crane among others.

Facilities includes six (6) international container berth (Pier 3 and 5) with total area of 5,000 sq. meters. Nine (9) general cargo berths (Pier 5 and 9), and one (1) domestic cargo/passenger terminal (Pier 15).

Manila South Harbor Statistics








CARGO in m.t.








Passenger Traffic
















Containers handled








Source: @ppa.com.ph/port statistics [9].

 Port History

Pre-World War II

The development of Philippine trade by Spanish regime ended upon the American occupations. In succeeding years of Commonwealth government, Manila was then open to foreign trade with freer and more liberal economic system-thereby increasing the domestic and foreign trade traffic.

Trade under the American administration were prosperous,  Manila then enjoyed one of the most flourishing trades in the Orient; overseas commerce steadily increased with United States represent as major trading country. With its port facilities in Pasig river which are too small, a plan to create port facilities along Manila Bay was envisioned by Americans; and in 1937, renovation of the South Harbor begins. Port construction includes installation of warehouses to accommodate large volume of cargoes, construction of  berthing space for ocean going vessel, and construction of new Custom house replacing the old Aduana building located in Pasig river; but the said construction was cut short due to the outbreak of World War two.

Prior to the war, South harbor had four finger piers and a marginal wharf for  ocean going vessels  of deep drafts. One of these piers were considered during that time as “One of the finest in the world and the longest in the far east”. [10]

Shipping facilities of South Harbor during Pre-war period

Manila harbor comprises an anchorage area of about 1,250 acres of the Manila bay partially enclosed and well protected by a rock-breakwater wall.

Pier 1;  is exclusively owned, and operated by the United States Government for the exclusive use of its Army and Navy vessels. Whereas the harbors, piers, wharves, and equipment installed at ports are owned, administered, and controlled by the commonwealth government thru Manila Harbor board.

Piers 3, 5, and 7; complete with modern cargo-handling equipment consisting of electric heavy lift crane, interior electric hoist, electric tractor,  piped provision for fresh water, and bunker fuel oil among others are both available for Cargo/Passenger carrying vessels. [11]

 The aftermath of World War II

During early stage of the war, these harbor installations particularly the South Harbor are subject to intense bombing raids by Japanese invasion forces, and later by the U.S Liberation forces.

At the end of the war sunken vessels littered the entire harbor. Many of the port facilities suffered extensive damages rendering them not useable to shipping activities.

Immediately after the liberation of the entire country, the commonwealth government started the repair and clearing works for Manila harbor particularly the South harbor facilities. Under Rehabilitation Act of 1946 (Public Law 370, passed by US Congress), funds were allocated for the rehabilitation for Port of Manila under supervision of a branch of the U.S. Corps of Engineer who undertakes all phases of the works in consultation with the Philippine Port Commission.

Obstructions to navigation along Manila bay leading to this pier were removed, and dredge works along the channel particularly near the mouth of Pasig River were conducted by the U.S. Army, and U.S Navy Engineers. [12]


1. Philippine Ports Authority

2.  Executive Order No. 321

3. http://www.worldportsource.com/ports/portCall/PHL_Port_of_Manila_1947.php

4.   http://www.ppa.com.ph/South%20Harbor/south_aboutUs_southHarbor.htm

5.  http://www.supermanning.com/Manila.htm

6.  Philippine Ports: Gateway to Maritime Trade 2004

7. Eva Macapagal Super Terminal

8. ATI extend cargo handling… Manila Bulletin (10/20/07)

9. Philippine Port Authority/Port Statistics

10. Port of Manila and other Philippine Ports. Yearbook 1949.

11.  Port of Manila: Trade Center of the Pacific, Yearbook 1939.

12. Port of Manila and other Philippine Ports, Yearbook 1949.

Further reading: Competition Policy and Regulation in Ports and Shipping, Philippine Institute of Development Studies by Gilberto M. Llanto et. al

12 thoughts on “Featured Philippine Ports: The Manila South Harbor

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