As a maritime writer, my curiosity about International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) is not spurred by how much it earns (consolidated revenues from port ops in the first nine months of 2016 were up 5% at US$835 million). Or by how many containers it handles (total throughput of 6.4 million TEUs in the same period, up 12%). What fascinates me about the company headed by Filipino businessman Enrique Razon Jr. is how it has solidified its global presence.

ICTSI clinched its first foreign concession in 1994, Terminal 5 of Argentina’s Port of Buenos Aires. Today its portfolio includes 30 terminals: nine in the Philippines, including its flagship Manila International Container Terminal, and 21 overseas. Many were surprised when, in 2001, ICTSI sold its foreign terminals to Hutchison Port Holdings. That turned out to be a shrewd gambit. It strengthened ICTSI’s financial position and prepared the company for a new round of conquests.

ICTSI has spread even to Africa: the Lekki box terminal in Lagos, Nigeria

ICTSI’s steady global expansion is a clear sign of the company’s management savvy and strategic acumen. It could be better appreciated if we take into account the fact that there is not much left of the Philippines’ maritime industry. The country once boasted one of Asia’s largest oceangoing fleets. Until the twilight of the Marcos era, it was a trans-Pacific shipping player (Galleon Shipping); had the largest shipbuilding and shiprepair facility in Southeast Asia (Bataan Shipyard & Engineering Co.); and manufactured and exported 20- and 40-foot containers (Ace Container Philippines).

All that is gone. Filipinos seem perfectly content with manning other nations’ fleets. Thankfully, there is ICTSI. The company serves as a reminder to Filipinos that there is more to being a maritime country than just ship crewing. It is, in a real sense, a national jewel. ~Barista Uno