By John Rey Saavedra | PNA
CEBU CITY – Filipino workers in the global shipbuilding industry in Cebu have taken center stage as their skills and work ethics were praised on Wednesday by foreign executives of Austal Philippines as contributory to the growth and expansion of the shipyard’s business.
“Our Balamban (Cebu) Shipyard is a showpiece. Here we bring together Austal’s most advanced maritime technologies and the outstanding capabilities of our Filipino colleagues,” Wayne Murray, president of Austal Philippines, said in a statement during the launching of its new state-of-the-art facility, the John Rothwell Assembly Bay.
The expansion of the facilities of this leading global Australia-based shipbuilder and defense contractor, at the West Cebu Industrial Park in Cebu’s western corridor was aimed to be “strategically positioned to cater to future market demands for commercial and defense vessels, including passenger and vehicle-passenger ferries, workboats, offshore crew transfer vessels, and naval ships.”
According to Murray, the opening Wednesday of the new assembly bay “allows us to further strengthen the order book of the Austal Philippines shipyard, ushering in more projects and employment to the local workforce.”
The company invested USD20 million for the period 2012-2017 in reclaiming an additional 20,000 square meters of waterfront land and development of new hardstand and mooring facilities that will allow a greater number of larger vessels to be designed, built, and maintained by Filipino workers in Cebu.
The shipyard at the village of Arpili in Balamban town employs over 900 Filipino engineers, design staff, skilled laborers, and production tradespersons.
Austal Philippines, in a statement released to media, said their Filipino workforce comprises 98 percent of their total personnel headcount.
“From engineers to designers, fabricators to accountants are Filipino,” it further said.
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, for his part, said the existence of Austal in Cebu has spurred economic activities in the province.
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia thanked the company for generating employment for the residents of Cebu, especially those who are living in the town of Balamban.
She praised the company’s leadership for their commitment to tap local skills for their continued operation and expansion of their business lines, now that the shipyard is considering to build ships for the Philippine Navy.
Balamban town Mayor Alex Binghay assured Austal’s executives of the municipal government’s full support of their endeavors.
David Singleton, chief executive of Austal Philippines, said the expansion is part of their ongoing strategy to regionalize the manufacturing base for commercial vessels.
“The Cebu shipyard has delivered 17 ships to 10 operators in nine countries globally. It adds great value to both local communities and the greater Philippines economically generating local employment and supply chain opportunities,” Singleton said in a statement released to media.
“Since 2011, Austal Philippines has become an integral partner of the global Austal Group in building revolutionary high-speed ships for governments, navies, and ferry and offshore operators around the world,” he said.
Austal Group’s 30 years in operation has brought to shore 300 vessels it designed and build for 100 operators in 54 countries, gaining reputation for its innovative shipbuilding using advanced technologies through their modern shipyards in Australia, US, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Austal Philippines also said it obtained a license to construct naval vessels, a portfolio that invited the attention of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who inspected its Balamban facilities before announcing the “big prospects” of Cebu’s shipbuilding industry due to the national government’s decision to tap this Cebu-based shipbuilder in building six Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) for the Philippine Navy that will cost PHP30 billion.
John Rothwell, chairman of Austal Group, said in his speech during the program launching the assembly bay named after him that the shipyard in Balamban, Cebu “mirrors in many ways the establishment and development of our first overseas shipyard in the United States”.
Rothwell said he believes that the shipyard “has the potential to emulate the great success… with naval vessel opportunities that are present in the Philippines today.” (PNA)