WITH the booming cargo-passenger business in the Visayas and Mindanao, Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc. has added another ship to its fleet, the M/V “Eins Soya”.

The vessel, which was acquired after almost a year of negotiations in Japan, was purchased for 450 million yen or roughly P180 million (excluding taxes of P23 million and renovation cost of P50 million).

It is expected to arrive in Cebu by April this year and its commercial maiden voyage is slated for July or August.

The company though is yet to determine the local name of the vessel and its port of call due to the overwhelming requests of ports in Masbate and VisMin for more trips.

“We have plenty of requests for additional trips. Until now, we haven’t decided which route we will service,” said Chester Cokaliong, founder, chief executive officer (CEO) and chief operating officer (COO) of Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc., in an interview yesterday.

According to Cokaliong, Masbate is seeking additional trips as well as Nasipit (Butuan), Ozamis and Iligan. He is also considering the option of entering Cagayan de Oro, which is still an unserved market for Cokaliong Shipping.

“We will seriously think about it (route). Perhaps we will be able to come up with a definite route a month before the vessel commercially operates,” he said.

Cebu, he noted, remains to be a central hub for trade and commerce, the reason demand for reliable logistics facilities including vessels remains high in neighboring islands. Between passenger and cargo, Cokaliong said cargo traffic is what keeps the shipping business alive, as passenger traffic is seasonal.

“Cebu is the hub. There’s plenty of ship-out from Cebu to other provinces and they rely on Cebu for their supply of commodities,” said Cokaliong.

M/V “Eins Soya” is Cokaliong’s 11th passenger/ro-ro vessel. This 19-year-old vessel has a gross tonnage of 2,628 and service speed of 15.5 knots. Its international voyage is from the Port of Wakkanai, Wakkanai City, Hokkaido in Japan to the Port of Korsakov in Russia.

M/V “Eins Soya” is the second ship of the Cokaliong fleet to have computerized main and auxiliary engines. The vessel also has bow thrusters for easy maneuvering. This vessel can accommodate at least 600 passengers.

Cokaliong says he was lucky to purchase the vessel directly from its source in Japan, a rare opportunity these days, especially with a scarcity of second-hand vessels in Japan due to the rising global demand. Japan is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of ships, known for its high-quality of workmanship and sophisticated equipment.

“This scarcity is now being felt by all shipping lines,” said Cokaliong.

Although a lot of buyers from all over the world go to Japan to purchase vessels, the country’s strongest competitor in purchasing vessels, according to Cokaliong is Indonesia, which has over 10,000 islands.

At present, Cokaliong Shipping Lines is serving 14 ports of call: Calbayog (Manguino-o), Cebu, Dapitan, Dumaguete, Iligan, Iloilo, Jagna, Maasin, Masbate, Nasipit, Ozamis, Palompon, Surigao and Tagbilaran.