By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyard Group has conducted technical inspection of the Hanjin shipyard in Subic Freeport as well as held discussion with the Department of Trade and Industry and Board of Investments signaling more concrete action for its interest in the country’s largest shipbuilding facility, which went under early this year with $412 million debt.
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said he met with visiting company Chairman Kommer Damen on Monday, March 4, to present the Hanjin facility in Subic and other investment options.
Lopez, who is also chairman of BOI the country’s premier investment promotion agency, took the opportunity to meet with Damen during his visit to the country following the shipbuilder’s interest to possibly partner with the Philippine Navy to build and supply naval defense vessels.
During the meeting, Damen said their focus on producing small vessels like yachts, cruise ships, and tug boats has put them in a good position because they are not affected by the overcapacity in the cargo ship market that caused Hanjin to scale down their operations. Hanjin, which concentrated on building larger container ships invested $2.3 billion. It defaulted on its $412 million loans from 5 local banks, believed to be the biggest bankruptcy in the country
During the meeting, Chairman Damen cited the presence of more shipbuilders in the country that he attributed to greater industry support and better education for employees. The Philippines is the fourth largest shipbuilder globally with several shipyards operating in the Visayas areas.
In addition, Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo reported that Damen's technical team already surveyed the Subic facility of the South Korean investor and is reviewing how it will fit in their current plans.
The family-owned shipbuilding company has already a footprint in the Philippines through their partnership with the Filipino company Propmech Global Technologies. It has also a contract with the Philippine Airlines.
The Damen website said the Group operates 36 shipbuilding and repair yards offering a wide range of tugs, workboats, patrol vessels, high speed crafts, naval vessels, dredging equipment, fishing vessels, yachts, research vessels, interceptors and HRIBS, pontoons and barges, floating drydocks, among others.