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Make us steel and we will build ships: Maritime Industry Authority

Manila: The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) urged the government and private sector "reactivate" the country's steel industry as this could provide the spark and impetus needed stir the Philippine' dormant shipbuilding capability.
Reactivating this vital industry, Marina said, would insure that the availability of domestically produced steel plates which are the primary requirements in ship construction and maintenance.
The maritime regulator pointed out that steel plates produced in the Philippines are generally much cheaper than their foreign counterparts who had to be imported at heavy costs from Japan, United States and South Korea.
The agency added that local shipyards could be "tempted" to build more small and medium sized vessels suited for the Philippines' inter-island traffic if there cheaper steel plates available locally.
Marina earlier said that local ship-builders should concentrate on designing a single class of cargo-passenger vessels are suited for the country's waters.
It said that ship-builders should pool their resources and come out with a prototype vessel which could conceivably served the various shipping routes in the Philippines.
The prototype "should not be too big nor small as majority of the shippers are doing business in inter- island routes."
The agency pointed out that the builders should make the prices of the prototype competitive which those second- hand ships coming from China, Japan and South Korea to stir up interest in local market.
The maritime regulator earlier announced that it is "unfeasible" for now to stop the importation of second-hand vessels as local shipyards are unable to meet the demands of local shippers.
Local shipyards are confined to building barges, fishing boats and other less sophisticated vessels for domestic use as they do not have modern ship-building equipment.
Marina added that builders are losing their skills as majority of Philippines yards are more concentrated in repairing ships rather than designing and constructing new ones.
From 1999 to 2003, a total of 3,113 locally owned ships were estimated to be repaired and dry-docked in the country's estimated 482 shipyards, while some 492 foreign flagged ships were also retrofitted during the same period.  [12/02/08]


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