Dutch shipbuilder eyes Hanjin assets
Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - March 10, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A leading Dutch shipbuilder has expressed interest in the shipyard facility of financially troubled Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines (HHIC-Phil Inc.) in Subic, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the DTI presented the Hanjin facility in Subic as an option to Dutch shipbuilding firm Damen Shipyard Group.

Damen Shipyard Group chairman Kommer Damen met with Lopez earlier this week to learn about investment opportunities in the country.

While Hanjin’s operations in the country is different from Damen Shipyard’s model, Lopez said the latter is looking into it as part of its options.

“It’s part of their technical (review) to see what they can do with it,” he said.

Board of Investments (BOI) managing head Ceferino Rodolfo said Damen’s technical team has surveyed Hanjin’s facility and is studying if it would fit in their current plans.

While Hanjin is involved in building large container ships, Damen Shipyard is focused on smaller vessels like yachts, cruise ships, navy ships and tug boats.

Damen said the group’s focus on smaller vessels puts them in a good position because they’re not affected by the overcapacity in the cargo ship market that led to Hanjin’s move to scale down operations.

The company is already present in the country through a partnership with Filipino company Propmech Global Technologies and a contract with flag carrier Philippine Airlines.

Lopez said Damen Shipyard is interested in having a shipbuilding facility in the country given the available manpower.

 “Manpower is a big factor for them. The labor, they speak English and they’re easy to deal with. We hear it all the time, the English-speaking labor force, but they (investors) really put value in that and the quality of work,” he said.

Apart from Damen Shipyard, he said two American firms and two Japanese firms, which he declined to name, have also expressed interest in Hanjin’s shipyard facility in Subic.

“There are some teams being sent to review,” he said.

Earlier this year, Rodolfo said two Chinese shipbuilders likewise have strong interest in Hanjin’s operations in Subic.

The government is helping find a white knight for HHIC-Phil, the biggest investor in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, due to its closure’s impact on employment.

HHIC-Phil halted operations after declaring bankruptcy as it has $400 million worth of outstanding loans from Philippine banks, as well as $900 million debt to South Korean lenders.

With the closure of operations, HHIC-Phil Inc. laid off some 3,500 workers last month.

Established in 2006 as a subsidiary of South Korean firm Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Co. Ltd., HHIC-Phil focused on building high-value vessels.

The company had 30,000 workers during the peak of operations.

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