Our agencies: How Ben Line is representing Hapag-Lloyd in the Philippines

The Philippines are an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia consisting of about 7,641 islands. With roughly 110 million inhabitants it is the 8th-most populated country in Asia and the 13th-most populated country in the world. As Hapag-Lloyd does not have an own office in the Philippines, it is represented by Ben Line Agencies which is located in the Metropolitan region of Manila. We talked to Bobby Chua, President of Ben Line Agencies Philippines.

Bobby, tell us a bit about Ben Line…

We have a network of offices in Asia with a very broad portfolio of activities, ranging from our representation of liner shipping companies, ISO tanks and chemical logistics, marine agency services, offshore support, oilfield services and project logistics and general forwarding with customs clearance.

How would you describe the partnership with Hapag-Lloyd?

We started representing you in September 2018 and we are very impressed with the systems and processes of Hapag-Lloyd. The training provided by Hapag-Lloyd for our staff was exceptional and the staff of your Area South East Asia is extremely helpful and supportive.

What is it where Hapag-Lloyd stands out?

Hapag-Lloyd has a very good reputation with its customers. The customers feel the human touch of the company and the passion of its people. If problems arise they would always find a human touchpoint. Additionally Hapag-Lloyd has a good market coverage and service flexibility being able to serve all major ports in the Philippines using various feeder services.

Could you tell us a little bit about the market?

Hapag Lloyd exports about 16,000 TEU annually from the Philippines and majority are foodstuff and beverages including fresh fruits and frozen tuna. Other key commodities are plastic and rubber, machinery, electronics, textiles and chemicals. Key export markets are North Europe, Asia, Middle East and North America. For Imports, key commodities are foodstuff and beverages, chemicals, paper and forest products and machineries. Imports are primarily coming from Europe, North America and Asia.

How has COVID-19 impacted the container business?

COVID-19 had a clear negative impact on export and import volumes with a drop of roughly 30%. The country was in a lockdown as of middle March and everything had to shut down for about three months. The Philippines were considered a hotspot for COVID-19 with the most cases in the South East Asian region for a time. When the government eased up on the quarantine regulations the volumes gradually picked up again and are now just down by a small single digit figure.

Bobby Chua, President of Ben Line Agencies Philippines

The Philippines plays a crucial role by being the home country of many seafarers. How did they manage the pandemic so far?

Lots of Filipino seafarers have not been able to get off their ships, as almost all other countries have been very restrictive with crew changes. Thankfully, the national government of the Philippines decided early on to create a “Green Lane Protocol” so that ships may deviate to Manila to allow seafarers of all nationalities to disembark here. Also Hapag-Lloyd took this opening and went here twice to perform crew change.

Why is it that the Philippines are regarded a nation of seafarers?

As an archipelagic nation, seafaring is innate among Filipinos. This is dating back about 50 to 60 years ago when our nation started looking overseas. Early Filipino seafarers established a union that encouraged both Filipino sailors and foreign employers to give seafaring a try. The natural resilience of our people to rise up from challenging situations including foreign occupation, natural calamities and the growing pains of a developing country were perhaps perfect ingredients in creating an ideal seafarer. Don´t forget that we speak very good English and our educational system is comparably well. The government established several maritime schools, so many young men decided for a career in the maritime industry. If you are able to become an officer on a big vessel you will certainly belong to the upper class earners in the Philippines.

Since when are you working in this industry?

I started in a local agency over 30 years ago. I have always loved shipping – so I love what I do and I do what I love.

Back to Top