Australian boat builder transfers manufacturing center to PH
Australian military and commercial boat builder Austal has chosen the Philippines as the future center of its global manufacturing operations, taking advantage of competitive labor costs that do not sacrifice the quality of work.
The company, which leads globally in the production of high-speed catamarans, said it would soon start exporting state-of-the-art vessels out of its newly acquired facility in Balamban, Cebu.
“It has become uncompetitive for us to build these ships in Australia. It’s our intention to systematically and progressively transfer the technology from Australia into the Philippines so it is our center of excellence for all things commercial,” Austal CEO Andrew Bellamy said in a recent interview.
The Balamban shipyard is the company’s third location.
“We chose the Philippines because of its high level of growth, the English-speaking population that has the right skill set and work ethic, and the country’s location is also an obvious take-off point for our Asian-centric expansion,” Bellamy said.
The company’s oldest facility is in Perth, Australia, where the bulk of commercial vessels are made.
Among the notable ships the company has delivered are the passenger ferries used for trips between the Chinese cities of Macau and Hong Kong.
The company also has car and passenger vessels operating inter-island routes in Greece.
Austal’s second location is in Mobile, Alabama, by the Gulf of Mexico. The United States shipyard focuses on ships for defense. The company has been building warships for the US Navy since 2006.
The company specializes in catamarans and “trimarans,” which have several thin hulls that are able to cope with rough sea conditions.
The company has about 200 employees working in Balamban, with a firm plan to hire 150 more people. Being built in Balamban today is a 27-meter three-hull trimaran—the first of its kind Austal has ever built—that will be used by wind-farm operators in Europe.
Bellamy said the Balamban facility, which the company bought from the Aboitiz group for $8 million last year, could end up employing thousands of employees, if demand stays strong.
“This is about building a long-term manufacturing capability in the Philippines that will be industry-leading and sustainable,” Bellamy said.
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