Austal tapped to build PH Navy ships
CEBU CITY—Six new Philippine Navy ships will be built in Balamban, Cebu, as part of the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“It will be the first time the AFP will source new fleets from local designers and engineers,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during a visit at the Austal shipyard in Balamban on Wednesday.
The Filipino-Australian ship building company, Austal Philippines, was tasked to build the Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) of the Navy.
According to Austal’s website, the OPVs are based on “a proven platform that has demonstrated success operating in tropical environments and conducting border patrol and maritime operations.”
Powered through by over 900 workers, Austal Philippines, the local arm of the world’s largest aluminum shipbuilder, has been building ships predominantly for exports.
Lorenzana said the government had earmarked P30 billion for the six vessels and it was President Duterte who wanted these vessels to come from Cebu.
The vessels offered by Austal are a larger variant of the cape-class patrol vessels used by the Royal Australian Navy and Australian Border Force.
But Lorenzana said they would want to further customize the ships based on the specific needs of the local Navy.
Austal facilities in Balamban, Cebu, have been expanded with the opening of the John Rothwell Assembly Bay—named after the company founder—enabling the company to accommodate large vessel projects for hull assembly, final outfitting, and painting.
During the inauguration of the John Rothwell Assembly Bay on Wednesday, Lorenzana brought with him Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, flag officer in command; and Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Elson Hermogino.
Lorenzana said the government was looking to sign a contract with Austal by the end of the year.
According to Austal Philippines, its $20-million expanded facilities at the West Cebu Industrial Park in Balamban will not only be able to build the OPV ships for the Philippine Navy but will also have the capability to maintain or service them.
Since 2011, Austal Philippines has been able to deliver 17 commercial ships to 10 operators from nine countries.
Recently, the Austal facility was granted the license to construct Naval vessels, including the ones needed by the Philippine Navy.
The facility will also be able to build Naval vessels for export.
Austal Philippines’ mother company in Australia has already built naval vessels for the United States and other countries.
Its current project, according to Austal Philippines Chief Executive Officer David Singleton, will be the fastest and biggest catamaran vessel built by Austal in the world—something which the Cebuanos and Filipinos should be proud of.
The vessel, a 109-meter passenger ferry for Fjord Line Norway, is currently being constructed inside the John Rothwell Assembly Bay.
Recently, the Austal Philippines shipyard finished building another catamaran type commercial ship that will be delivered to France.
They were also able to deliver several fast craft to a local ship company.
Lorenzana said they were processing this year the paper work for the building of the new Navy ships with Austal Philippines.
They are also looking to do away with the usual bidding process and instead enter into a government-to-government agreement transaction with the Australian government.
What is important, he said, was that the President wanted the new Navy ships to be built by Filipino workers and Filipino engineers.
Austal Philippines workforce is 98 percent Filipinos.
From 2012 to 2017, the company has invested $20 million, covering the reclamation of an additional 20,000 square meters of waterfront land and the development of new hardstand and mooring facilities.
The expansion will allow a greater number of larger vessels to be designed, built, and maintained in the Philippines, the company said in a statement. —WITH A REPORT FROM ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL
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