WITH decarbonization emerging as a priority in the traditionally emissions-heavy shipping industry, Balamban-based Tsuneishi Heavy Industries (Cebu) Inc. (THICI) is building four methanol-fueled bulk carrier vessels for a US-based customer.

THICI president Yasuaki Seto said the company received orders for four new Kamsarmax for delivery two years from now.

“We have received orders for four new Kamsarmax, the world’s first methanol-fueled bulk carrier. Towards the realization of a zero-emission vessel, we will build the vessel using green methanol here in Balamban with delivery schedule around end of 2025,” Seto said during the West Cebu Estate’s 30-year anniversary celebration on Thursday, May 25, 2023.

The vessel, according to Seto, will have a length of 229 meters and a maximum width of 32 meters. It will have a net weight of 82,000 metric tons.

The Kamsarmax is the best-selling ship design of Tsuneishi Shipbuilding with a sales record of more than 350 ships worldwide.

Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary and Board of Investments (BOI) managing head Ceferino Rodolfo welcomed Seto’s announcement, as this new investment aligns with the positioning of the Philippines “as the regional hub for sustainability, connectivity, and innovation driven hub that drive manufacturing and services.”

The BOI was given a goal to hit the target of P1.5 trillion in investment registration this year from the earlier P1 trillion.

Tsuneishi Shipbuilding said the company is among the first to start research and development on methanol-fueled bulk carriers using green methanol to promote zero emissions in the maritime industry, leading to this current order.

“We will continue to accelerate the research and development of next-generation vessels fueled by not only methanol but also ammonia and hydrogen and strive to contribute to mitigating the load to the global environment by providing customers with zero-emission ships that achieve both environmental performance and economic efficiency,” the company said in a statement.

Methanol has attracted considerable attention as an alternative ship fuel since 2021 for shipbuilders to be compliant with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) goal towards zero carbon. IMO’s aim is to cut down greenhouse gas emissions of new build and existing ships by at least 40 percent by 2030.

Anchor tenant

THICI is the anchor tenant of the 540-hectare, mixed-use West Cebu Estate that is a 60-40 joint venture between the Aboitiz Group and Tsuneishi Holdings of Japan.

“Mutual trust and respect, I think it’s just one of the factors that have made this partnership successful... Looking back, when Tsuneishi Heavy Industries just started its operations here, it was difficult to receive orders from customers; however, now, we have received many orders from loyal customers around the world,” said Seto.

THICI has a capacity to build 20 ships per year with a workforce of 10,000 employees.

As for this year, Seto said they have 32 pending ship orders which are all bulk carrier in different sizes from different customers around the globe like Japan and Europe.

Rafael Fernandez de Mesa, president of Lima Land Inc. and Cebu Industrial Park Developers Inc. and senior vice president for economic estates of Aboitiz InfraCapital, said even as West Cebu Estate is expanding its locator mix, the shipbuilding industry in Balamban will continue to flourish.

“Shipbuilding will continue to be strong... Cebu has a very strong brand internationally, thanks to the efforts the local government units have made to promote Cebu Province. So there’s a lot of interest. There isn’t a lot of industrial land available in the eastern side of the island, which provides tremendous opportunity to now develop the western side of Cebu,” said de Mesa.

Besides THICI, West Cebu Estate is also home to Austal, Advanced Catamaran Composites and Cebu Marine Industry.

In a press statement released on March 30, Tsuneishi Shipbuilding Co. said it had reached an agreement for an order of the world’s first methanol-fueled bulk carrier with Mitsui & Co. Ltd. for Cargill. Cargill is an international provider and trader of food, agricultural, financial, industrial and related products and is well known as a major multinational grain company based in Minnesota, United States.