Monday, August 1, 2011

Subic floating drydock capable of servicing 18,000 tonner ships

Floating dry dock a boost to Subic ship-repair industry

By Henry Empeño , manila standard, Dec 12, 2007

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Fifteen years after it was towed out of Subic Bay during the withdrawal of the US Navy, the Auxiliary Floating Drydock Medium 5 (AFDM-5) is now happily bringing back the glory days of Subic’s ship-repair industry.

Long regarded as a familiar fixture at Subic’s Ship Repair Facility until 1992, the AFDM-5 is now back to its old home at Bravo Pier here—a bulky, seemingly ungainly hulk of machinery that, despite the passage of years, is helping Subic gain new fame as a center for maritime commerce.

The AFDM-5 is essentially a marine garage where vessels can be brought in for repairs or maintenance.

But this special garage—which can be submerged under a marine vessel, then raised to lift the vessel out of the water—is now again the shining star at Bravo Pier, where the newly formed Subic Drydock Corp. (Subicdock) has established, in the last six months, a thriving ship-repair operation.

Subicdock general manager Gerald “Gerry” James Hammond, a former US Navy officer, said that since the AFDM-5 was brought back to Subic in June, it has already serviced 18 vessels—an average of three ship-repair projects each month.

“We have already serviced many ships, including our own tugboats and barges,” said Hammond, who got his first assignment in the US Navy as dock personnel in 1976 and served onboard for 13 years.

“Right now we got the superferry Westpac Express out from Guam,” Hammond said proudly, referring to the high-speed vessel used by the US Marines’ Military Sealift Command (MSC). “We got a lot of float repairs, but this is really the first US float we got since we opened up.”

With the AFDM-5’s capacity to take in ships weighing up to 18,000 tons and spanning up to 150 meters, Subicdock’s P275-million ship-repair venture here is turning out to be a highly viable investment, said Subicdock president Catalino Bondoc.

“It took us a lot of money to bring the dry dock in here, but we are happy because it is now clear in our mind what we are planning to do with this facility,” he added.

It was Bondoc, who, as chief executive officer of Malayan Towage and Salvage Corp., brought the AFDM-5 back to Subic in June after proposing the ship-repair facility project to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Brought to Guam in 1992 when the US Navy departed from Subic, the AFDM-5 first served in the repair of small- and medium-sized vessels of the US Marine’s MSC, as well as commercial ships.

Thereafter, it was sold to Cabras Marine Corp., a private ship-repair company based in Guam and Micronesia.

In 1999 Cabras awarded the AFDM-5 to its subsidiary Malayan Towage, the largest towage and salvage company in the Philippines, reportedly for P165 million. Malayan, thereafter, towed the floating dry dock to Manila and put in place additional equipment, including a 100-ton-capacity floating crane.

In June 2007, to the delight of some 50 former Subic dry-dock workers, AFDM-5 arrived at Bravo Pier to regain its title as the centerpiece of Subic’s ship-repair industry.

Since then, the AFDM-5 had shown “exceptional performance” in the hands of its veteran crew, said James Edge, director of the Asian Navigation Ltd., a customer of Subicdock.

“The shipyard has been working the whole hours to ensure that the deadlines are met, and the jobs are delivered on time. So, instead of going somewhere else, vessels now go to Subic for repairs,” said Edge, who also said that Subicdock’s newfound reputation for reliability is spreading in the maritime industry.

The good news about Subicdock must have also reached businessmen who knew a winner when they see one. According to Bondoc, some Japanese and Indonesian businessmen have lately offered $7 million for the AFDM-5, but he turned down the proposals.

“We know that ship repair is a viable operation here in Subic, and there are lots of services we can do for the shipping industry in this area. There is a lot more that we can do here in Subic than what we can do with the $7 million,” Bondoc said.

Because of the AFDM-5, Bondoc said that Subicdock is now able to compete with ship-repair facilities in the United States—like Guam, for example, which has an AFDB, or Auxiliary Floating Drydock Big.

Bondoc said Subicdock’s competitiveness stems from Subic’s free- port status, which allows the firm to bring in machinery and materials tax-free, as well as Subic’s pool of skilled manpower that is relatively cheaper than those in other countries.

“We are really in for a long term here in Subic because of this edge, which is very cost-effective for us and our customers,” he added.

Bondoc also said that while Subicdock is gearing to provide ship-repair services, it is also considering a long-term plan for boat assembly in partnership with European watercraft designers and builders.

“We could have a technical tie-up wherein they could bring parts for, say, tugboats and we will assemble them. Our prospective partners could also use Subic as a base to sell or export our products,” he said.

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