The Philippine Ferry System: A Complete Guide

The Philippines is composed of over 7,100 islands. Because of its archipelagic geography, the ferry system is a crucial mode of transportation in the country, connecting the island provinces and serving as convenient transportation for locals, tourists, and even goods.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of the Philippine ferry system, highlighting important information regarding the major ports in the country, the types of ferries used, and the different shipping companies that operate in the Philippines.

For a comprehensive list of ferry routes and schedules in the Philippines, see: Philippine Ferry Schedule and Routes 2023

Major Ports in the Philippines

Nearly every major island in the Philippines has strategically located ports that serve as gateways to the provinces. These ports vary in size and activity, with some catering to passenger travel and others primarily facilitating trade by accommodating container vessels.

Given the archipelagic nature of the Philippines, it boasts a significant number of domestic and international seaports, totaling over 200 across the country. The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), a government-owned corporation under the Department of Transportation, operates all ports except for Cebu, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Cebu Ports Authority. The PPA comprises 23 Port Management Offices responsible for overseeing the ports from each pilotage district, as well as private ports owned by companies.

The three largest ports in the Philippines are located in Manila, Cebu, and Batangas.

Manila Port

The Port of Manila, situated in the capital city of the Philippines, is the premier domestic and international port in the country. It facilitates passenger travel, cargo transportation, and cruise ship operations. The port consists of three main regions: the North Harbor, South Harbor, and the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT).

Located in Tondo, Manila, the Manila North Harbor includes the North Port Passenger Terminal and serves as the base for 2GO Travel, a major ferry shipping company that operates routes nationwide. The Manila South Harbor, situated in Port Area, is managed by Asian Terminals Incorporated and houses the Eva Macapagal Super Terminal for passenger services.

The Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) is operated by International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) and ranks among the world’s largest non-transshipment ports with an annual capacity of more than 3 million TEUs. Located at the mouth of the Pasig River, the MICT extends into Manila Bay and is positioned between the North and South Harbors.

Cebu Port

The Port of Cebu is situated in the North Reclamation Area of Cebu City, adjacent to the Mactan Strait. Operated by the Cebu Ports Authority, it is the largest domestic port and the second-largest international port in the Philippines, facilitating both passenger travel and cargo transportation services.

Cebu City, being the largest and most urbanized city outside of Luzon, serves as the primary ferry hub for provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao regions. The Cebu Domestic Port consists of 3 passenger terminals for inter-island trips and 2 ferry terminals for Cebu City–Mactan ferry boats. On the other hand, the Cebu International Port consists of 512 meters of berthing space, with 1,953 TEU ground slots and 204 refrigerated container plugs.

Batangas Port

The Batangas International Port is a seaport located in Barangay Santa Clara, Batangas City. It serves as the primary seaport for the Calabarzon region in the Philippines. Situated just 2-3 hours south of Manila, Batangas Port acts as the gateway to popular destinations like Puerto Galera, Mindoro, and the renowned beach paradise of Boracay.

The port comprises both passenger and container terminals. The Batangas Passenger Terminal consists of three terminals, primarily catering to ships and ferries bound for neighboring islands. On the other hand, the Batangas Container Terminal, run by Asian Terminals, handles cargo shipments for industries in South Luzon.

List of Ferry Companies in the Philippines

Thousands of ferry companies and enterprises operate in the Philippines, providing a variety of services such as passenger transportation, cargo delivery, and tanker operations. These operations are overseen by the Maritime Industry Authority of the Philippines, also known as MARINA.

As of 2022, there are 183 accredited shipping companies and enterprises engaged in domestic trade. They collectively operate 1,953 passenger ferries, 2,263 cargo ships and tankers, 206 tugs and dredgers, and 2,582 recreational ferries.

Below are some of the biggest passenger shipping companies that are currently operating in the Philippines as of 2023.

Different Types of Ferries in the Philippines

There are various types of vessels that cater to different route distances and passenger capacities. The most common types of ferries in the Philippines are Ro-Ro ships, fastcrafts, and small-to-medium passenger boats called lantsa.

Ro-Ro Ferries

Ro-Ro ferries, also known as Roll-on/Roll-off ferries, are a type of vessel used for transporting wheeled cargo, such as cars, trucks, trailers, and railway carriages. The name “Ro-Ro” comes from the ability of vehicles to simply roll on and off the ferry using their own wheels, without the need for lifting equipment.

Ro-Ro ferries in the Philippines typically have multiple decks, with the lower decks designated for vehicles and the upper decks for passengers. They are a popular choice for inter-island travel, especially for long-distance and overnight trips.

Fastcraft Ferries

Fastcraft ferries are smaller, high-speed vessels designed to offer a faster mode of transportation between islands. These ferries are equipped with powerful engines, allowing them to cover longer distances in less time. They are particularly suitable for travelers seeking shorter travel durations compared to Ro-Ro ferries.

Passenger Boat or Lantsa

Lantsa is a type of passenger boat that usually has a wooden or fiberglass hull and bamboo outriggers. They come in various sizes and designs, ranging from small traditional wooden boats to larger, more modernized vessels.

In rural and remote areas of the Philippines, smaller lantsas are commonly employed for short-distance travel, especially in communities where road access is limited. In urban and coastal areas, larger passenger boats or ferries are used to transport up to approximately a hundred people over longer distances. These boats are typically powered by diesel engines.

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Ron Lao is an engineering graduate with a passion for writing informative content and exploring new places, cultures, and food. He loves science, cats, badminton, and anything wellness-related.

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