25 April 2011

Ship parts assembler eyes Subic for Asian/European hub

Polarmarine, Inc., a household name in ship parts industry, is planning to transfer production facilities in Malmo, Sweden and Russia to this free port under an expansion program designed to capture the growing shipbuilding industry in Asia.

Carolina Agoo, Polarmarine administration and financial manager, said that the expansion will be undertaken for two reasons: first, because of the strategic location of the Subic Bay Freeport, which is closer to the firm’s Asian customers and suppliers; and second, because of the English-speaking skilled workers here.

Currently, Polarmarine has 86 workers, most of whom were former workers in the Subic Naval Base, who have been highly trained by the U.S. Navy, Agoo said.

“With this expansion plan, we aim to lower the cost of our products since we will be saving more from freight costs because we will import from our suppliers in Asia, and export products to customers in Asia,” Agoo added.

Outgoing Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman Feliciano Salonga, who himself was an executive in a maritime company, expressed elation over Polarmarine’s long-term plan during a tour of the firm’s assembly plant in Subic last week.

“The SBMA welcomes this expansion project, and the agency is here to help in any way it can. That’s our role — to assist,” Salonga said.

Polarmarine, a Swedish firm which started operations here in 1996, is among the pioneer locators in the Subic Freeport.

Initially, Polarmarine produced “Polar Jet”, a programmable multi-nozzle tank cleaning equipment designed to clean difficult-to-reach parts of slop tanks, wing tanks and under-stringer platforms in conventional tankers.

Later on, Polarmarine ventured into assembly of sonic horns used in shipyards, for which it acquired recently a 484-sq.m. building to for additional assembly facility.

“This is in preparation for our plan to transfer production in Malmo, Sweden to Subic,” Agoo explained, adding that the company sees a 20 per cent increase in production and employment in the first year, and an additional 50 per cent in the succeeding years.

Agoo added that in 2010, the Polarmarine unit in Subic generated about $7 million in revenue. From this level, the company plans to increase production to $8.5 million and augment its workforce to a total of 103 in the first year.

Thereafter, the firm plans to hike production to $12.75 million and its workforce to 155.

Agoo added that company executives also plan to transfer to Subic the production of loadmaster, a loading computer that calculates and balances the load of ship, as well as shipmaster, which takes care of cargo and ballast automation in any type of ship. However, she said the company is set to strengthen its technical team, which includes naval architects, marine engineers, and data encoders, before it could undertake the assembly of loadmasters and shipmasters.

Agoo said that shipbuilding-related industries are now being concentrated in the Asian region, and more shipbuilding component assembly operations are now being transferred to Asia.

Because of this, Polarmarine started this month to closely coordinate with Subic-based Korean shipbuilding firm Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp.-Phils. for an arrangement to directly supply sonic horns.

Polarmarine is a member of the Kockumation Group based in Malmo, Sweden. Aside from Polarmarine, the Kockumation Group also has Kockum Sonics and Texon Automation under its umbrella. The Kockumation Group also has production facilities in Sweden, Russia, Shanghai and Dalian in China, and Great Britain.

Last year, Polarmarine was number 24 among the 198 exporters in the Subic Bay Freeport, with freight-on-board value of $6.13 million; and number 47 among the 314 importers here, with its freight-on-board value of $4.11 million. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Polarmarine administration and financial manager Carolina Agoo shows samples of the firm’s products to outgoing SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga (right) and SBMA Maritime Business Department head Ronnie Yambao.