Local firm keen on building ships for territorial defense

Local shipbuilder Propmech is willing to collaborate with the Philippine Navy (PN) to design and build bigger ships for territorial defense and long-haul patrolling of the country’s vast maritime domains.

“Absolutely. 100 percent. The Navy, the government is an important partner of ours, an important client. Whether it is on equipment that we supply which we do, we work with the other players. We help with the equipment and in other cases, we would be very interested to work together to provide larger assets for the Navy,” Propmech director Glenn Tong told defense reporters in an online press conference on Friday.

He added that they are “definitely interested” in this undertaking which may involve the design and construction of larger naval ships.

“We look forward to being given the opportunity in the future,” he added.

Incidentally, Propmech is the shipbuilder that constructed and supplied 12 of the PN’s multi-purpose attack craft (MPACs) from 2007 to 2019.

The PN’s 12 MPACs are subsided into four sub-classes which are called Mark I, Mark II, Mark III, and Mark IV.

Each class consists of three MPACs and with every succeeding Mark made bigger, faster, advanced, and heavily-armed than its predecessor.

MPAC Mark III is the class armed with the Rafael Advanced Defense Ltd.) Spike-ER (extended range) surface-to-surface missile system. It is also equipped with a mini-Typhoon remotely-controlled .50 caliber gun system.

The Mark IV, the last MPAC of the class, will also be equipped with the Spike-ER surface-to-surface missile system.

These high-speed and versatile naval craft have contributed greatly to the PN’s coastal defense efforts as proven by the incident last November when an MPAC together with the Philippine Air Force (PAF) AgustaWestland AW-109 attack helicopter engaged and sunk an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) speed boat killing the seven terrorists onboard during operations on the Sulu Sea.

With effective ballistic armor, the MPAC involved in the operation did not sustain significant damage, while its crew was unharmed despite taking heavy fire from the ASG.

Other than combat missions, the MPACs have been used several times in the past for rescue and personnel transport during the sinking of Super Ferry 9 in September 2009.

Propmech has been serving the country’s marine industry for more than 30 years and has been working closely with the various branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by supplying them with parts and equipment and servicing vessels and building new ones.

The local shipbuilder has also delivered more than 1,000 vessels to government agencies, including the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The vessels are used as patrol, rescue, coastal watch, management of aquatic resources, and personnel transport.

Propmech started in the commercial industry where its systems and methods were refined, initially offering parts, equipment, and generator sets.

The company later expanded into refurbishing, building, and maintaining vessels, equipped with the commercial experience, which includes cost-efficiency and fast turnaround time.

After many years building commercial and private boats such as ferries, yachts, and fishing vessels, Propmech entered the defense market when military organizations tapped private boat builders.

“Globally, military organizations started engaging private boat builders who make commercial vessels because it is more cost-efficient,” Tong said.

Tong said that shipbuilders will remain a priority of public and private companies and agencies as the need to transport goods, people, and services by water remains.

“The past year tested the marine market, but working closely with our partners made us find effective and flexible solutions,” said Tong.

He said Propmech will support the marine industry, especially during a crisis. The company, he said, is the product of “listening and collaborating” with its clients over the years.” PNA.GOV.PH