Thursday, July 25, 2019

Austal PHL opens new Cebu facility, hopes to get Navy deal to make offshore patrol vessels

From the Business Mirror (Jul 25, 2019): Austal PHL opens new Cebu facility, hopes to get Navy deal to make offshore patrol vessels

BALAMBAN, Cebu—Regional shipbuilder Austal Philippines has improved its chances of securing the contract to assemble offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for the Philippine Navy after completing the construction of its $20-million shipyard expansion.

Austal Philippines on Wednesday inaugurated here the John Rothwell Assembly Bay, which is designed to accommodate large vessel projects for hull assembly, final outfitting and painting capacity. The assembly bay is a massive structure standing 120 meters long, 43 meters wide and 41 meters tall.

As the shipyard has recently secured a license to build naval vessels, Austal Philippines can now deliver on major naval vessel projects, such as the OPVs required by the Navy.

Austal Philippines is bidding for the contract to assemble six OPVs for the Navy as part of the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The ships that the manufacturer can make are a larger variant of the Cape class patrol vessels used by the Royal Australian Navy and Australian Border Force.

Speaking before Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana and Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, as well as Navy officials, Austal CEO David Singleton said the firm is hoping the government seriously considers its offer to build its patrol ships.

“I hope that what you see makes you think in the future, [that the] Philippine Navy [vessels] can be constructed in this country and [the Navy does] not need to go offshore for its needs. We have what you need,” Singleton said.

Executives argued the Navy should choose Austal as its OPV supplier, as it will be easier to maintain and service the units given the ship builder’s local presence. They added that securing the contract will result in generating more employment opportunities for Filipinos.

At present, over 900 Filipino engineers, design staff, skilled laborers and production tradesmen are employed at the Cebu shipyard. With the $20-million shipyard expansion completed, Austal Philippines is targeting to employ more locals to fill in the labor requirement of the John Rothwell Assembly Bay. According to Singleton, the expansion is part of Austal’s running program to make the Philippines its manufacturing base for commercial vessels in Southeast Asia. The shipyard here has so far delivered 17 ships to 10 operators in nine countries globally.

Expanding its capability, Austal Philippines recently signed a memorandum of agreement with Aboitiz Construction Inc. that will allow cooperation on steel fabrication between the two firms. The large vessels Austal Philippines will assemble over the next months will require steel hulls, which Aboitiz has the expertise to produce.

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