CEBU-based shipping giant Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc. announced on Thursday that it has acquired a new vessel from Japan to boost its passenger and freight service in the Visayas-Mindanao regions.

MV Avrora Okushiri, which the company bought in July 10, is expected to arrive in Cebu in May 2017.

It is the company’s 12th ro-ro passenger vessel in its current fleet and is a sister-ship of Mv Filipinas Jagna, the vessel that was inaugurated last weekend.

MV Avrora Okushiri was built in 1999, two years younger than Mv Filipinas Jagna. It has a gross tonnage of 2,248 and service speed of 14.5 knots. Its homeport is in Wakkanai City, Hokkaido, Japan.

This is also the third ship in the Cokaliong fleet to have a computerized engine monitoring system similar to Mv Filipinas Cebu and Mv Filipinas Jagna.

Total acquisition cost of the vessel was at P260 million, which covered the tax dues and renovation cost, said Chester Cokaliong, founder, chief executive officer and chief operating officer of Cokaliong Shipping Lines, in a press conference yesterday.

Cokaliong is eyeing to inaugurate the vessel by the end of August 2017. He identified Cagayan de Oro, Ozamis, Iligan, Masbate or Iloilo as possible trading routes of the new vessel that can carry 625 passengers.

Cokaliong said it is the growing demand of passenger traffic and robust business activities within the Visayas and Mindanao that prompted them to serve more routes.

“Shipping as a mode of transportation is still the easiest and cheapest,” said Cokaliong, amid the low airfare routes marketed by local and foreign airlines.

He, however, said that the scarcity of second-hand vessels in Japan is what prevents them from opening more routes and connecting more island provinces.

Cokaliong said he was lucky enough to purchase this vessel direct from its source in Japan, a rare opportunity these days, especially with a scarcity of second-hand vessels due to the rising global demand.

Vessel owners, he added, also slowed down in building more ships due to global economic conditions. Other vessels of Cokaliong were acquired through bidding.

Japan is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of ships known for its high-quality workmanship and sophisticated equipment.

“Filipino engineers are more familiar with Japanese engines,” said Cokaliong.

The addition of Mv Avrora Okushiri is expected to generate additional employment of 50 officers and crew members. At present, the company employs about 500 regular staff and 300 apprentices coming from the different parts of the country.

Cokaliong Shipping Lines is serves 15 ports of call—Calbayog (Manguino-o), Cebu, Dapitan, Dumaguete, Iligan, Iloilo, Jagna, Maasin, Masbate, Nasipit, Ozamis, Palompon, Surigao, Tagbilaran and its newest route, Cagayan de Oro.