FastCat steams up ahead with its fleet build-up to 30 vessels by 2020 from its current 12, basically catamaran-type, roll-on/roll-off ferries.

Two of the Philippine major banks, RCBC and Land Bank, have signed loan contracts for the modernization program of Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corp (APFC), operator of FastCat.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) will provide P1.1-billion for three vessels in an agreement with APFC signed last February 17th.

Landbank of the Philippines (Landbank) has guaranteed P1.7-billion to underwrite five vessels in a contract signed April 2nd.

The major financial support of these banks to APFC is a very clear approval of its corporate health, the viability and sunshine opportunity in its business to provide a vital maritime link between the 7,107 islands of the Philippines.

The bankers also signal calculated optimism, given APFC is relatively a newcomer organized just in 2002 but already trusted with a large loan portfolio to continue facilitate the economical movement of people and goods with safe, fast and convenient ferry service to the islands using state-of-the-art RoRo vessels designed specifically for Philippine water conditions.

APFC Pres. Christopher Pastrana is looked-up in the maritime industry, now president of the Philippine Interisland Shipping Association (PISA) established in 1977 as a broad cross-section of the local maritime industry, with domestic shipowners and shipping support providers.

He extrapolates: About 40 million Filipinos ride ships, about 100-140 million tons of domestic cargos are moved.  APFC 2020 target is just the first batch of the first phase — serving only 15% of the market. “The market is so big. The market is enough for everybody to modernize.”

Pastrana is glad banks “believe that modernization program in our maritime industry is long overdue and should be supported… I believe this is just a start, this is just the beginning. I’m sure they will open up to other shipowners.”

He observes the average age of ships here is 35 years old; hence, the huge potential for growth. Matching this with the Government’s Build Build infrastructure program and focused on the development of Mindanao, “we are going to reach the farthermost part of the Philippines through ferries and buses and terminals.”

RCBC EVP Michael de Jesus adds, “Nothing but positive. It’s a growing business, it’s a growing industry, so we’re very comfortable.”

Land Bank SVP-Agriculture and Development Joselito Gutierrez is bullish, “This is actually the priority sector that we needed to support not only because it’s vital in transport sector but because it is necessary in developing other sectors.”