Responsiveness, resilience and readiness have been the motivation for Chair and CEO Tomas Riveral as he steers his company into the future – he’s not afraid to dream big and then build big. As a result, Oriental Port and Allied Services Corporation (OPASCOR) has both a rock-solid foundation and an exciting and flourishing future ahead.
Established in 1990, OPASCOR is the exclusive cargo-handling provider of Philippines-based Cebu International Port. As a Workers’ Enterprise, the company is owned and operated by its employees, with staff who’ve worked for the company for at least three years eventually becoming owners.
The company has more than 700 employees and is the country’s only successful workers’ enterprise. In the Philippines, OPASCOR is a brand widely associated with optimal quality port services. “Our name is our pledge that we’ll serve customers better,” Tomas says. “It’s a promise that we’ll consistently deliver our services in a way that customers expect.”
For OPASCOR, the past five years have been a period of infrastructure development and capacity building in response to an anticipated increase in demand. Expanding OPASCOR’s cargo-handling capacity has been a priority.
The company has constructed the 1.25-hectare Finger Pier at Cebu International Port, which significantly increases the port’s berthing, yard space and operational capacity. A container yard operation outside the port, constructed by subsidiary Diadem Terminal Maritime Services and Realty Inc, provides a much-needed backup yard to avoid congestion inside the port.
“Our improved infrastructure reassures clients that OPASCOR can handle their cargo efficiently and without delay,” Tomas says.
Complementing this, the company’s control system and management information system have been upgraded to provide state-of-the-art services.
In 2014 and 2015, Cebu International Port experienced severe congestion for cargo traffic, road congestion and inside the port with yard utilisation reaching a high of 90–106%. By 2019, the volume of cargo handled at Cebu International Port had increased by 10% for foreign containers, 45% for domestic containers and 10% for general cargoes.
“This was the primary driver for OPASCOR capacity expansion. We didn’t want to experience those congestion issues again,” says Tomas matter-of-factly. “Cebu International Port is just a small port, but the cargo traffic has steadily built up over the years. This put pressure on all the facilities surrounding the port such as roads and cargo storage.
“Because the government-owned Cebu International Port wasn’t prepared to host the increased cargo vessels, we built our own port adjacent to Cebu,” he explains.
The Cebu International Port Finger Pier project was built in cooperation with the Cebu Port Authority under the build-operate-transfer scheme, which means that ownership of the pier will be transferred to the Cebu Port Authority after 15 years of operation.
The new pier was completed in September 2019 and started operations on 7 October 2019. “This was a very satisfying and fulfilling undertaking by the company,” Tomas says.
“Within the first four months of operation, the new pier has already hosted 45 vessels. I’m thankful to God for this opportunity to build a port. I feel we have done something good not only for OPASCOR, but also for the business community and our economy.”
The company is investing further in advanced equipment including rubber tyre gantry (RTG) cranes and gantry quay cranes. In October 2019, OPASCOR broke ground on a PHP40 million (US$784,000) new operations centre at Cebu International Port, which will help maximise the use of the port for cargo-handling activities.
The 2,200-square-metre facility will include a container freight station warehouse, command centre for real-time monitoring of the vessels and yard operations, viewing deck and client lounge.
“OPASCOR is known for our willingness to invest in our operation to improve it,” Tomas affirms. “We look to the future and anticipate what our clients and stakeholders need. We’re not afraid to go after our visions and deliver what our clients want even before they know it themselves,” he laughs.
Tomas credits strong strategic partnerships as key to the company’s ongoing success. OPASCOR’s relationship with Singaport Technologies Engineering began in 2009 following equipment failures by the company’s previous supplier, which had caused operational downtime, complaints and loss of customer confidence.
“Singaport is a very strong technology provider. They offered to improve our equipment, so we gave them the opportunity to upgrade two of our RTGs,” Tomas recalls. “The result was very encouraging, and our partnership grew from there. The result has been amazing – we have so much less downtime now.
“Our relationship with Singaport is founded on transparency and mutual cooperation. From our customers’ perspective, our company is more reliable and dependable.”
Tomas trusts in a bottom-to-top management approach and believes if employees think a strategy is good for the company, they’ll support it because they know it’s good for them too. “Everyone feels they’re part of the company’s challenges and its success,” Tomas says.
“Everyone feels they’re part of the company’s challenges and its success.”
“We’ve developed a real sense of belonging. Our culture feels like a big family. We asked the team, ‘What do you want to see from the company in the next five to 10 years?’ We listened and now we’re building it.”
Corporate social responsibility is at the heart of the company’s values, as is their faith. “Our company culture believes that whenever we have something to share, we’ll give to those in need. If there is a typhoon, fire or family death, we’ll provide whatever support is needed.”
OPASCOR is a member of the Philippine Business for Social Progress, a business-led social development NGO that focuses on the environment and education by building new schools and providing student scholarships. “We’ve developed a culture that’s sensitive to the needs of others,” says Tomas proudly.
“As CEO, I enjoy leading our key personnel in defining our business strategies. I love being in charge of the company’s big picture goals – it’s a rewarding process to map out the growth trajectory of the company.”
With OPASCOR currently carving out a strategic road map for the next 10 years, there are exciting opportunities on the horizon. “We may expand to other ports in the Philippines or even in other countries,” Tomas shares. “There’s also scope to diversify our operation to warehousing and business estate development.
“I want to share the positive experiences of our workers’ enterprise and show other business communities the benefits of empowering workers to run their own organisation.”
When he’s not at work, Tomas loves spending time with his wife Delia, children Ryan, Irene and Racquel, and two grandchildren Undre and Xaianna. And for the ultimate escape, Tomas heads alone to his small hobby farm, a quiet passion close to his heart.
“I feel like I’m the father of the company,” Tomas chuckles. “If there are financial or business challenges, I’ll always think of my workers first instead of myself and my family. Being CEO has taught me to be patient – I love helping our people grow.”