Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Floating drydock back as Subic Freeport offers ...

Fifteen years after the floating dry dock was towed out of Subic Bay as part of the 1992 US base withdrawal, the sophisticated equipment has been returned here as this premier Freeport zone is now back in ship repair business.

Subic Drydock, a subsidiary of prominent U.S.-based ship repair service provider Cabras Marine Corporation, announced the arrival of AFDM-5 floating dry dock on Saturday which would revive the operations of the defunct Ship Repair Facilities (SRF) here.

Cabras is a private firm which has been considered as the leading ship repair service provider of tug-boats, salvage vessels, and waterfront maintenance for the US Navy and commercial vessels in Guam and Micronesia for over 30 years.

Shutdown in 1992 after the historic withdrawal of US Naval troops and facilities, the floating dry docks (AFDM-5) was towed to Hawaii, displacing thousands of highly-skilled direct Filipino ship repair employees and indirect workers.

Cabras, through its sister company, Malayan Towage and Salvage Corp. (MTSC) was able to purchase the AFDM-5 to the State-government of Guam after the US Armed Forces donated the sophisticated ship repair machinery after it was decommissioned supposedly for lack of operational and technical manpower that "belongs to former Filipino base workers."

In October 2005, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Feliciano G. Salonga and administrator Armand C. Arreza signed a long-term lease contract with Subic Drydock Corporation President and CEO Catalino Bondoc for the setting up of a P275 million ship repair facilities.

Salonga said that the return of the floating dry dock would open job opportunities, particularly to those highly skilled US base workers who were trained and used to be employed with the SRF during US Navy days.

Shortly after the contract signing, Bondoc clarified that while the floating docks were strictly utilized for military purpose, it will now be servicing commercial clienteles for ships like inter-island sized vessels and ferries.

He added that Subic Dry Dock would also be offering ship repair service to Philippine Navy ships and other Navy vessels of countries within the Asia-Pacific region.

Bondoc also disclosed that international shipping market will be the primary target client of the project, particularly vessels operating in the Asian Region. These vessels are represented by international shipping agents composed mostly of customers of Malayan group of companies.

Subic Dry Dock will also be eyeing service contracts with 88 domestic shipping companies operating 315 domestic vessels.

Subic Dry Dock will also process to secure the Master Ship Repair Agreement (MSRA) and be accredited for US Navy ship repair contracts that require dry docking and repair services particularly from the Military Sealift Command based in Yokohama, Japan .

"Initially, we will be hiring 150 workers which will be made up of former SRF workers who will also be in-charge as trainers to new breed and young ship repair workers," Subic Dock Project Director Gerald Hammond said.

The project will be employing 600 skilled and semi-skilled workers composed mostly of those who used to be stationed in the SRF area for their familiarity on the dock and at the same time train apprentices.

The company's total capital expenditure of P276 million will be used to acquire the dry docks amounting to P165 million while the remaining amount of P110 million would be allocated for the improvement berthing and other port facilities of the Bravo pier inside the SRF compound such as the administrative office building, machine shop and warehouse.

The AFDM-5 floating dry dock is a wielded structural steel, capable of accommodating ships of 18,000 tons displacement with length-span of up to 150 meters.

Subic Freeport bested other port areas that the company explored for the setting-up of its ship repair facility project such as the Sarangani Bay in General Santos and Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam .

The ship repair facility is expected to be completed and operational in two months after the arrival of another dry dock to support its operations and upgrade handling capabilities that will surely bring new hope and bright future to former SRF workers. (PNA-Malou Dungog)

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