Lite Ferries launches new vessel
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Demand for sea travel remains consistent despite higher fuel prices and local airlines offering low fare rates.
Lucio E. Lim Jr., president and chief executive officer of Lite Shipping Corp., revealed that the company is expected to increase its fleet to 27 vessels by March 2019 with the delivery of Lite Ferry 19, Lite Ferry 5 and Lite Ferry 9.
He made this announcement on November 17 during the grand launching of the newly-renovated M/V Lite Ferry 18 in Cagayan De Oro City.
“We believe that the Cebu-Cagayan (De Oro) route is not adequately served that is why people go to the airlines. Good and on-time service, friendly crew and clean ship… these are (the qualities that) we want to deliver in this ship,” he told reporters in a press conference onboard the ship.
M/V Lite Ferry 18 covers the Cebu to Cagayan De Oro route on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7 p.m.
The Cagayan De Oro to Cebu route operates every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 7 p.m.
Cagayan De Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno described this route as “strategic,” which marks the “beginning of a much bigger relationship between Lite Shipping and northern Mindanao.”
Moreno said the Cebu to Cagayan De Oro route provides entry to other Mindanao destinations such as Misamis, North and South Cotabato and other towns and cities in the Northern Mindanao region which are bustling points of economic growth in the south.
“We see the importance of shipping when we look at how communities can grow. Without connectivity, we will be isolated from each other. The lack of connectivity will hamper the growth of our country,” said Moreno.
LITE FERRY 18
Lim said the company invested $10 million or Php 540 million (at Php 54 for $1) for Lite Ferry 18.
But it took them two years to fully refurbish this vessel and equip it with brand new engines.
This signals the company’s commitment to grow their fleet and serve the sea travel market better.
Lim said Lite Ferry 18 is the youngest ship in their fleet.
It was built in 2002.
Its two brand-new Ningbo diesel engines were built in 2017 with 7,800 horse power, a maximum speed of 16.8 knots, and service speed of 15 knots.
This means that the ship is the company’s fastest vessel to date with a travel time of only nine hours.
The roll-on, roll-off (RORO) passenger ferry is 92 meters long, 17 meters wide coastwise type that was acquired from China.
It now locally classed but is undergoing transfer classification to IACS Class by RINA of Italy.
Lite Ferry 18 can accommodate a total of 856 passengers with two economy passenger decks, tourist class, business class, and four executive cabin rooms.
From 25 vessels by the end of 2018, Lim said they will grow their fleet to 27 vessels by March 2019 with the delivery of Lite Ferry 5 and 9.
Lite Ferry 19, the sister ship of Lite Ferry 18, is expected to be deployed on December 2018.
The company has acquired four brand new vessels in the last five years.
These are Lite Ferry 25, Lite Ferry 27, Lite Ferry 29 and Lite Ferry 30.
Lim said they value comments of passengers on how to improve their service “because we cannot be better without the assistance of the public.”
Lite Shipping Corp.’s passenger ferries connect the islands of Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Negros, Samar, Leyte, and Northern Mindanao with 22 destinations.
Lim said the company is fully compliant with the International Safety Management Code (ISM) as established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).
It is now undergoing ISO certification for its operations.
In the future, Lim said they are looking at expanding operations to Luzon in an effort to serve a wider market.
Lim, however, refrained from divulging more details on the subject.
Lim said the shipping industry faces challenges such as increase in interest rates, higher fuel prices and more competition.
Acquiring new vessels also involves investing more money to deliver quality and on-time service.
Despite the capital intensive nature of the shipping business, Lim said the company is “here for the long-term” to serve the market.
“For example, safety is very important to us. Passengers nowadays are demanding. Even if it is just a minor accident, you (will appear) in social media so the pressure to be better is tremendous,” he said.
Lim said the company has dedicated personnel who check social media platforms for issues and concerns.
Lim has steered the company’s growth in the last 28 years.
Under his leadership, Lite Shipping Corp. has become a consistent winner and Hall of Fame awardee for the Cleanest Ship of the Year category, a recognition given by MARINA and the Bureau of Quarantine.
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