The expanding shipyard of Austal Philippines in the municipality of Balamban in Cebu is home to a wealth of Filipino shipbuilding talent.
The facility has served as the regional hub of leading global shipbuilder and defense prime contractor, Austal since 2012. It is strategically positioned to cater to growing market demands for passenger and vehicle-passenger ferries, offshore crew transfer vessels, and military vessels.
Over 900 Filipinos are currently employed as engineers, naval architects, design staff, skilled laborers, production tradespersons and administrators by Austal Philippines; and this number is expected to grow as the company’s orderbook increases.
In 2017, the Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness at Duke University reported that export-oriented shipbuilding made up for 2.6 percent of Philippine exports in 2015. Revenue generated by the shipbuilding and repair industry was estimated at $ 1.6 billion.
A separate report published by the Maritime Industry Authority in 2018 stated that the Philippines is the 4th largest shipbuilding country in the world. At least 2,161 vessels were manufactured locally in 2017.
Both reports indicated that the country’s key advantage and challenge is its workforce. While the Philippines has produced globally-competitive shipbuilding professionals, the best talent often go overseas to earn higher wages and pursue career opportunities..
“Filipinos are in-demand overseas. They’re known for their work ethic, attention to detail, cost competitiveness, and English language skills,” remarks Austal Philippines President Wayne Murray.
“Bringing Austal’s advanced maritime technologies and providing avenues for upskilling local talent has been key to attracting and retaining the best people.”
Since it began operations in 2012, developing local talent has been a priority for Austal Philippines. Ninety-eight percent of Austal Philippines’ employees are Filipino.
For Balamban native Ed Kaamino, working as an engineering coordinator at Austal Philippines gave him an opportunity to be part of a global company without leaving home.
The opportunity to work with Australia’s top naval architects was a game changer for naval architect Judilyn Abella.
Abella said she’s happy to be working alongside her neighbors and classmates at Austal.
Oliver Ablao, who has been with the firm’s procurement team for five years, finds the global thrust of the company rewarding.
Meanwhile, lead naval architect Henry Dosdos hopes that more young people will join their ranks.
Austal Philippines employees are enthusiastic about the prospect of creating vessels for the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The company had earlier expressed interest to build six offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for the Philippine Navy.
According to Dosdos, “these will be the first modern OPVs for our Navy and I’m thrilled at the possibility of our work contributing to the safeguarding of our waters.”
Austal Philippines has well-established relationships with a number of local schools and universities in Cebu that encourage skills development in naval architecture, shipbuilding and associated trades.
The company has a successful ‘On the Job Trainee’ (OJT) work experience program for graduating college students, with a number of local senior high schools and universities recommending and encouraging their students to conduct employment immersion programs at Austal Philippines.
From 2017 to 2018, a total of 93 students from 10 different learning institutions (ranging from high schools to universities across Cebu) participated in ‘on the job training’ at Austal Philippines; and were offered placements across various departments (Production, Design, Programs, Site services, Support Offices) according to their course of study.