BALAMBAN, CEBU―Austal Philippines, the regional unit of global shipbuilder and defense prime contractor Austal Limited formally opened its Cebu facility yesterday, July 24, 2019. With the expansion and the license to construct naval vessels, the facility can now design, construct and maintain vessels such as offshore patrol vessel (OPV) for the Philippines.

The company said a key expansion was the John Rothwell Assembly Bay, which was designed to accommodate large vessels for hull assembly, final outfitting, and painting capacity. The assembly bay is a huge structure measuring 120 meters long, 43 meters wide and 41 meters tall.

They invested more than P1 billion from 2012 until 2017 for the reclamation of an additional 20,000 square meters of waterfront and the development of new hardstand and mooring facilities that will allow a greater number of larger vessels to be designed, built and maintained in the Philippines.

The largest vessel, by volume, ever to be built by Austal in 30 years –Hull 419, a 109-meter vehicle passenger ferry for Fjord Line Norway―is currently under construction in the John Rothwell Assembly Bay. More than 900 Filipino engineers, design staff, skilled laborers and production tradespersons are employed at the Balamban shipyard.

Ninety-eight percent of Austal Philippines’ workforce from engineers to designers, fabricators to accountants were Filipinos and the expansion is seen to further boost employment opportunities in the area. “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,” said Austal chief executive David Singleton.

“The expansion is part of our ongoing strategy to regionalize the manufacturing base for commercial vessels, and 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 Philippine economy by generating local employment and supply chain opportunities,” he added.

Now with a license to construct naval vessels, the shipyard is ready to deliver major naval projects such as offshore patrol vessels for the Philippine Navy. 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.

The newly-expanded state of the art facilities in Balamban trebled the company’s shipbuilding capacity and will allow OPVs to be immediately constructed and maintained for the Philippines by an experienced and ready workforce.

Gracing the event are Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, Balamban Mayor Alex Binghay and top Austal officials. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana attended the event and also had a tour of the facilities on behalf of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte. The shipyard is also ready to construct other navy vessels for export./HT Lenis