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28 November 2008

Japanese firm to produce 'personal submarines' in Subic

First gaining attention as a manufacturer of world-class limousines, Japan-based firm Amuza Co. Ltd. is now set to produce in Subic what it called "leisure submarines", in partnership with a business locator here that specializes in fiberglass and composite materials construction.

This was announced on Thursday by Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) administrator Armand Arreza, after Amuza conducted a successful sea trial of its private submarine prototype here last week.

Amuza, which has been working on the submarine project for 10 years, has partnered with former Subic locator Taiyo Sangyo Trading and Marine Service Ltd., which in turn referred them to McGram Fusion Inc. in Subic, said Arreza.

McGram Fusion, which manufactures car body kits made of fiberglass, carbon fiber and Kevlar, has agreed to fabricate the vessel's hull and other visible components, while electronic parts and systems will be shipped in from Japan.

The two-seater leisure submarine weighs four tons and is about the size of a typical car — two meters wide, four and a half meters long, and two meters high.

Underwater, it sucks in water which adds to its weight, for a total of 4.8 tons.

Powered with a lithium-ion battery, which Amuza currently develops, the leisure sub on a full charge of 10 hours can navigate for up to 50 nautical miles (about 90 kms) and dive up to 150 meters deep.

Underwater, the vessel's speed tops 5 knots per hour.

Amuza chief executive officer Kiyotaka Miyagawa said the firm has so far spent about $1.7 million for the prototype tested here last week.

He added that Amuza wants to produce 10 units of the submarine by the end of the year.

"Basically, this is a toy for rich people," Arreza said. "So production would be low, slow, cautious, and of the highest quality."

Amuza mechanical technologist Keisuke Imada said the unique submarine can be maneuvered to perform stunts like an aircraft.

"This is the most acrobatic submarine in the world," Imada said with pride. "The idea was to make it more mobile, as opposed to the traditional sub which can only go up and down."

Imada said buyers of their craft must first secure a license from a pilot training station they are planning to set up in Subic Bay.

Imada, who served time in Japan's navy, said he is very familiar with the Subic Bay Freeport, so he insisted that it be the venue for sea trials and the training school.

Initially, the firm plans to invest US$5 million for the training school, which will employ 50 to 100 divers, mechanics, and helpers, he said.

"Subic Bay's proximity to Japan, its preferable environmental factors, coupled with a workforce possessing excellent maritime capabilities, make it an ideal site for this venture," said Imada. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

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