Japanese shipbuilder to boost production, jobs in Cebu

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Aug 18 2014 04:28 PM | Updated as of Aug 19 2014 12:39 AM

Tsuneishi Heavy Industries Cebu Inc. president Hitoshi Kono, Philippine Economic Zone Authority director general Lilia de Lima, and Tsuneishi Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. overseas operations director Kenji Kawano

MANILA, Philippines – Leading shipbuilder Tsuneishi Heavy Industries Cebu Inc. is looking to increase its production in its shipyard in Balamban, Cebu in the next three years.

Its president, Hitoshi Kono, said that from its current production of about 21 ships per year, the firm wants to increase production to 25 to 30 ships by 2017.

“Productivity-wise, we must increase our capacity by building more ships in the future to 25 to 30 ships per year,” he said in a press briefing on Monday.

However, Kono said that while the firm plans to boost productivity, it has no immediate plans to expand its facility in Balamban.

Tsuneishi’s shipyard in the once sleepy town of Balamban covers approximately 1.5 million square meters, where more than 13,000 employees are working.

Kenji Kawano, Tsuneishi Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. overseas operations director, said an additional 2,000 employees may be hired in the next three to years as it increases production.

Kawano noted that when Tsuneishi entered the Philippines in 1994, it started with only 18 employees.

“In 1994, we weren’t sure that we will succeed here, that’s why we started small. But after several years, we are confident that there are good workers and highly educated people here, so definitely we will succeed. That’s why we continue to expand,” he said in the same briefing.

Tsuneishi has also focused on implementing training programs, having sent over 1,400 Filipino employees to Japan since 1994 to acquire additional technical skills.

According to Kono, the company will continue both its in-house training program and deployment to Japan for technical training.

“To strengthen the shipping industry of the Philippines, we must develop more human resources education and equip them with necessary tools and skills of shipbuilding,” he said.

Kono said Tsuneishi continues to have a positive outlook on the country’s shipbuilding industry, which has grown to be the fourth largest in the world behind China, Korea, and Japan.

“The Philippines has great potential to further grow its shipping industry with its experience and capacity. Tsuneishi want to capitalize on the country’s growth and become the mother shipyard in Southeast Asia,” he said.

Tsuneishi is projecting to generate P36 billion in revenues for 2014, after seeing a decline in 2013 due to a lower demand in new ships and other global factors.

“In 2014 the market has slowly recovered and we are projecting revenues of P36 billion this year,” said Kono.

Tsuneishi, a joint venture between the Tsuneishi Group and the Aboitiz Group, made record revenues of more than P41 billion in 2012. The firm expects to reach this mark again by 2017 to 2018.

Tsuneishi has delivered 193 ships with revenues of about P250 billion in last the 20 years through its shipyard in Cebu.

Philippine Economic Zone Authority director general Lilia de Lima said more than 300,000 Filipino lives have been positively affected by the presence of the global shipbuilding and ship repair company in the country.

“Everybody who was against Tsuneishi going there now have their own businesses and their children have jobs,” de Lima said.

“This is the perfect example of countryside development and how lucky is West Balamban because Tsuneishi went there,” she added.