SONAME wants ban on ship imports

August 3, 2010 11:03 am 

MANILA, Aug. 3 –- The Society of Naval Engineers and Marine Engineers Inc. (SONAME) is urging the government to place a ban on so-called ship imports so that the country’s fledgling shipbuilding industry can finally take-off.

SONAME president Sammuel Lim said vessels intended for domestic routes must be ordered locally so that shipbuilders here can gain the necessary capital and skill in developing their trade.

Domestic vessel operators currently prefer to buy relatively inexpensive, second-hand imported vessels mostly from Japan and Korea with an average age of 25 years.

But experts contend these are unsuitable to local conditions.

In order to boost the industry and stem the flood of imports, Congress passed Republic Act 9295 or the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004 that provides incentives and tax breaks to ship owners who refleet or have their vessels built by local shipyards. Despite this, the industry seems not to have taken off until now.

“The Philippines cannot be a maritime power without a shipbuilding industry,” he said.

Lim pointed out that the vessel import ban “will have a ripple effect” on the country’s shipbuilding industry, boosting the manning, ship management and ship owning sectors and the naval architecture and marine engineering profession.

SONAME earlier expressed its intention to improve the design stability of the wooden banca which is the workhorse of the Philippines' coastal and fishing trade.

The society stressed this is appropriate as most of the vessels being used domestically are not designed for the Philippine waters and thus the main cause of most sea mishaps in the country.

This is highlighted by the fact that vessel owners in the country prefer to just import the vessel due to cost considerations even if these are not fit for Philippine waters.

“It (safety) all starts with the design, how can a vessel be safe if it these are not designed for us,” Lim added.

He said SONAME, which is celebrating its 60th founding anniversary in October, is ready to collaborate with regulator Maritime Industry Authority to review the guidelines for the smaller vessels in the country, especially those wooden-hulled ships and the banca.

In the recent months, banca and other wooden-hulled accidents were figured in the string of sea mishaps.

Lim added that for the first time, the group is holding a ship and boat design contest open to all naval architects and engineers in a move to populate the country’s domestic waters with vessels that are made locally.

SONAME is the duly-accredited professional association of the Philippine Regulation Commission.

Its main objective is to upgrade the professional status of its members and advance the art, science and practice of the design, construction, operation, repairs and maintenance of marine vessels, structures, machinery and related fields. (PNA)

LDV/PFN

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