For the first time, an all-Filipino crew (harbor pilot included) demonstrated last July 23rd the first IACS-classed vessel built in the Philippines, Hull 420 or the SeaCat for VS Grand Ferries for local operations.
This was by Austal at its expanded ship-building facilities in Balamban, Cebu — reflecting a solid commitment to showcase Philippine ship-building capability, sealed world class by France’s Bureau Veritas (BV); one of only 12 accredited by the prestigious Intl Association of Classification Society (IACS) from among over 50 classification society globally.
The timing is immaculate with the Government’s Build Build Build infrastructure program, demanding fleet modernization with expansion of port and terminal facilities, connecting the three nautical highways, the rush of travel and tourism in the archipelagic nation of over 7,000 islands of 100 millions, of young nationals with high birth rate.
The synergy of effort and support is readily seen: Austal has been selected to build six offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) in Balamban with Filipino hands, announced last August by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana under the Navy/Armed Forces Modernization Program Horizon 2.
Some 30 local shipowners, officials and stakeholders were given a technical presentation with a shipyard tour, later boarding the 30-meter aluminum catamaran passenger vessel for an hour demonstration sea-ride, exclusive.
This evoked serendipity and was a pleasant surprise to the gathered guests; and more like, an epiphany that Austal has raised the bar for the Philippines maritime industry!
Austal-Philippines President Wayne Murray noted the significance of the event and recent news, “It’s been a tradition throughout the Philippines to specifically buy second hand vessels, or purchase vessels out of China or somewhere…”
The guests were a happy mix of family and business like VG Grand Ferries’ Arthur Vaughn Merida Zosa with mother Marife, wife Fides and daughter Julean, Balamban Vice Mayor Rosie Binghay, Board Member Alex Binghay, domestic shipping as 2Go Supercat, Ocean Tanker Corp, Lite Shipping, Magsaysay Shipping Lines and Logistics, from Propmech, Seaoil, Euro Asiatic Phil.
SeaCat is operated by VS Grand Ferries owned by Arthur Vaughn Merida Zosa, former provincial board member, 2nd district of Samar. His family also owns VS Grand Tours based in Region 8 with routes in Samar, Northern Samar, Leyte, Biliran, main office in Catbalogan City.
The highly-regarded Zosa family endured a marathon travel for over 11 hours, bearable only because they are experienced world travellers as in Australia and Singapore. But they feel the trouble was worth it, seeing a unique vessel, made by Filipino hands at an impressive modern yard.
Austal has three major building facilities: defense vessels are designed and constructed in Henderson, Western Australia and in Mobile, Alabama, USA. Commercial vessels are built in Balamban, Cebu, in the Philippines.
As early as last year, Austal delivered two 30-meter passenger catamarans to SuperCat of 2GO Travel, subsidiary of the 2GO Group.
Pres. Gloria Arroyo issued Executive Order 909 s.2010 giving 50% discount in fees and less stringent maintenance protocol for IACS-certified new vessels for domestic operations.
The Maritime Authority Administration (MARINA) issued Circular 2015-04 on Sept.7, 2015 as the Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR) for “encouraging investment” in newly-constructed vessels for domestic routes.
Austal-Philippines is the growing center of excellence for Austal’s global commercial shipbuilding operations –designing, constructing and sustaining advanced, highspeed vessels for customers around the world.
As Austal celebrates 30 years in 2018, Austal-Philippine’s order book has never been stronger and includes multiple orders for international customers for deliveries into 2020 and beyond. The Balamban shipyard has delivered 15 vessels to 9 operators in barely 6 years, from a portfolio of proven catamaran and trimaran vessel designs from 16 meters to 130 meters in length.
This includes a recent delivery to Germany, the heart and home of shipbuilding. The Germans were impressed by the quality of construction coming from the Philippines. To which Wayne Murray responds with confidence that Austal Philippines is building ships that is equal to or better than any shipbuilder, worldwide.
Austal is investing millions of dollars (USD) to treble the capacity of the shipyard with a new assembly hall 120 meters long, 40 meters wide and 42 meters high allowing much larger ships to be constructed under cover 24/7. Additional facilities include multiple module assembly, material storage, technology infrastructure and staff accommodation.
Completion is due January 2019, giving credence to Murray’s assertion “We had the vision right from the start.”
Austal bought a small shipyard. Very shortly, it claimed the whole land, bought a new waterfront and kept developing to current capability of building very big ships on a 120, 130 square-meter yard land.
Murray “We’ve quickly got the quality level up to where it needs to be, and got the skill levels up to where they need to be.
He credits the Austal team, the Austal people. While there are a few expats, Murray clarifies the pivotal role of Filipinos, going head-to-head with the best of the world.
“We are not just building for local but we are building for international customers. We plan to take on the world… I have no doubt that we are going to succeed.”
The team is now over 500, upwards to 800 by January or February next year. Doubling in less than a year also shows the intent and capacity to build.
Austal is positioning as a global shipbuilder, defense prime contractor and maritime technology partner of choice; designing, constructing and supporting high-speed commercial and military vessels for the world’s leading operators.
Even as Australia’s largest, Austal has designed and constructed (and continues to deliver) more than 300 vessels for over 100 operators in 54 countries since 1988 — the world’s largest aluminum shipbuilder.
The Balamban shipyard delivers customized commercial vessel solutions, with a powerful and efficient production capacity, a portfolio of proven catamaran and trimaran vessel (from 16 metres to 130 metres in length), an industry-leading team of skilled and experienced designers, engineers, shipbuilders and service specialists.
The firm started operations February 2012 in Cebu; part of a competitive strategy by Austal to regionalize manufacturing base for commercial vessels. The shipyard began with 30 employees but now has a workforce of over 500.
The Austal-Philippines shipyard features modern facilities enabling best practice, modular construction processes that meet Austal renowned high standards of quality and safety.
The company has added great value to both the local and national economy; generating local employment and supply chain opportunities. It supports purchasing and procurement of materials for production from local businesses, wherever and whenever possible.
The shipyard is geographically, financially and strategically positioned to cater to global market demands for high speed passenger and vehicle passenger ferries, work boats, offshore crew transfer vessels, windfarm vessels and other commercial and utility vessels.
Impressive Track record.
Austal-Philippines delivered its first ship, a 27 metre Tri-Swath Wind Farm support vessel, to the UK in January 2013 and has since then produced four more Wind Farm support vessels. The shipyard has also produced four Offshore Crew Transfer Vessels since 2015; a 72 metre catamaran for Caspian Marine Services of Azerbaijan, a 57 metre catamaran for Swire Pacific Offshore and two 45 metre catamaran ferries for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation (ADNOC) of the UAE.
Austal-Philippines boasts the construction and 2014 delivery of the largest aluminium ferry ever built in the Philippines – the Austal Auto Express 80 – a 79.8 meter, high speed vehicle passenger catamaran for SNC Aremiti of French Polynesia.
In 2017, Austal-Phil constructed four ferries for international customers including two 30 metre catamarans for 2Go of the Philippines, plus a 50 metre catamaran for Seaspovill of South Korea and a 56 metre catamaran for FRS of Germany.