Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Suroy Suroy Sugbo 2009: Explore the Midwest – Tsuneishi

June 13, Saturday, a jolly bright morning and we were all eager for a rolling tour of the Tsuneishi ship yard. Ah yes, we were still in Balamban and this was where the town recovered. Last night’s cancelled affair due to heavy rains will be relegated to secondary memory until forgotten!!

Well, for one thing, Tsuneishi – big as it might be, is a very secured private entity compound that not just any tourist can visit pronto without the prior hassle of arranging things. So everyone in the tour were quite excited to see how these folks build those ships bigger than any of the biggest 20 buildings and houses in Balamban combined. Whohoo! Yes yes, though minimal, they do have work on Saturdays so we saw some activity!

Upon entry of each bus, three engineers would board to act as local guides. On our bus, the one who grabbed the microphone was himself the head of training in this shipyard and he shares that the very first thing he does when training new workers is to tour them around the facility. Hmm, I think the whole area is even bigger than the Balamban Poblacion! The other two engineers while distributing brochures would help answer many of the queries or point to those big things being described as we passed by.

I now reflect this was even the only “real” tour in the whole suroy. Everywhere else was pigging out on food and sitting around watching spectacular shows after hearing a litany of descriptions as we approached town hehe! Not that I didn’t like them, but this Tsuneishi rolling tour was just ultra fantastic in my memory for a new learning experience. How was that done?

Rolling tour (a.k.a roving tour) was the best option. We just sat inside our very own bus seats while it roamed the place since you cannot round the whole area walking hehehe! We were brought from facility to facility as our local guide (the engineer) described them or told us related information. Everyone had a ball at one facility near that area where they push the finished metal monsters out to sea. OMG, it’s a very wide expanse of concrete with a scattering of everything big that our buses looked so tiny and all of my 6 foot long body very miniscule. Then we were let out for photo-op! Ahhhh, we were like little children let out on a park. And photo-ops we did! This activity even got us, the suroy guests, to bond more by literally tossing cameras to each other for the (probably) once-in-a-lifetime pictorial at this shipyard! Whoa! Even the engineers and drivers were not spared!

This area (I must remember) is called a Building Dock though it twists my tongue and I always say Building Block. But I am proud that my twisted phrase has a meaning hehe! Unlike somebody out there who can’t also place “building dock” in his head and calls it the Building Duck hahaha! Peace my friend, peace! Still, I could not connect the two words “building” and “dock”.

What is it? A docking area for buildings? Enter the engineer… it is a big big dock for building big big ships. And I asked how anyone can build a ship docked in a dock since that means it’s already floating at the dock! Engineer regaled us that the whole area is dry (as we saw it) when all the ship-building is in progress. Once done, they open the valves over at the other end and sea-water gushes in so the humongous newly-built ship sitting like a duck will float and head out to sea from the dock! Exciting! But the last activity here has just pushed out a week ago, so there was no water in the dock! Oh doc, I feel like a duck in this dock thing!

Ah, this will help me describe how big the place we were at. Suddenly (though I can’t imagine why), a fellow guest felt the need to visit the powder room! Powder room ka dyan… yes da CR, the john, the toilet to pee or urinate, mangihi ba okay?! She was telling Tony about it but one of the engineers heard it, so he barked something into his two-way radio – oh okay, “walkie-talkie”! In about two minutes (while we were all busy with our poses) a van came to fetch the lady, aha then two others joined her! And I learned they would be brought to the building “nearby” so they could do their thing. How near was that “nearby”? Well, just over at the end of the yard we were on – probably half a kilometer away hehehe!

Trivia: our local guide, the engineer, notes that we were the very first tourists to see this building block (oops dock) since its inauguration barely a month ago (15MAY)!

Some of the ship modules are built onsite while some parts are prefabricated in Japan or elsewhere and brought to this facility to be attached to various components until they become the whole ship. Whoa, we passed by what looked like the bottom front of a ship. You know, that pointed thing under the ship? Mr. Engineer described it to be so, but he added that this one was for a smaller ship. Everyone in the bus laughed! Why? The “small” thing being described was actually about 3 times the length of our bus! And that was just the front tip! Gosh!

The guide pointed to us some cube-like steel structure being fitted and painted. He said it was decidedly small since that would become just the captain’s deck and crew quarters of an oil-tanker. But it still looked big to me! It was probably as big as the Mandaue City Hall!

I saw various types and sizes of humungous cranes and lifts for the first time ever. And many of those do not have hooks. We learned that these lifting machines use magnets nowadays. Those magnets must be quite strong since I saw their capacities boldly written on top. Some can lift 10T while others 30T. Yes dahlin’, that means tons or tonnes or tonelada entawon! The steel plates alone are a remarkable sight as they come in various widths and thicknesses! It is even an OMG sight when they are lifted. Wow! Am sure cellphones are not allowed in that area!

Women rule here! Yep ladies, flap your wings three times! The facility is decidedly sexist on some aspects of their operations. Guide says, virtually all crane operators here are women but quickly adds that there is a scientific basis (parang guilty hehe). What I remember are the smaller hands as main factor, though he also said something about patience, determination, discipline etc. Hmm, if there is going to be a MEN’s Liberation Movement, I think it will come from the male wannabe crane operators over at Tsuneishi!

Here is more, most of the welders in this shipyard are also women. When we asked why, the guide said “gaan ang kamot” – how do I translate that… “light-handed”

Bulk Pegasus! We said hello to this giant of a sea craft already done and floating by the wharf but undergoing some final additions. It is so big we can’t clearly see its whole height from the bus windows nor could we take a photo of the whole ship as its length goes out of range. If we moved farther away, we can’t also see much since other ship things or giant cranes etc would block the view. Okay, bulk Pegasus is/was Tsuneishi’s latest offspring at the time of our visit and this giant of an infant was being readied for delivery. It is supposed to be registered in Panama and has a length of about 186 meters!

By the pier were the giant chains and golly each link is probably half my height. The floaters or whatever those orange things are called (used during emergencies) were also still resting on the pavement and not yet fitted/hung on the ship. These “little” crafts are actually big. This was the first time I saw them up close and realized each is about half the size of our bus. They better be, since the outside markings say capacity is 25 persons! Grabe! These crafts are totally enclosed but look cute just the same! If it says maximum capacity is 25, when used by Filipinos for public transport, one could probably fit 50 or more hehe! Now I want to have one of those instead of my dream jetski. But alas, the guide says it is not allowed anywhere in the world as those crafts are specifically for emergency use and that all seafarers are trained on what to do if they see any of those floating at sea! Oh well…

BTW, have you seen 5,000 cars? Me neither! And the next that was shown us was a yet unnamed ship already floating but unfinished. It is called a car-ship and can carry 5,100 vehicles at any one time. Yes amigo, five thousand and a hundred cars and/or trucks and/or buses whatever. The ship has 13 levels and OMG, some of the floors can be moved up or down like giant elevators to cater to the height of the vehicles. Oh la la la! I might as well call it a floating or traveling parking lot. Whew! When our bus passed by the pier where it was docked, we were like looking out into a big maroon building probably the length of SM Megamall’s Building A but 3 or 4 times taller. Jaws dropped!

Other things unseen were equally interesting like the company is ISO certified. So so info eh? How about it is co-owned by the Aboitiz group? But don’t fret yet, none of the WG&A crafts were made in this facility. Those are the so-so ships, I suppose! Tsuneishi is for the big things! Take this… at the time of our visit, none of the ships made in this facility have sank or met a fatal demise! BUT, one of their newly delivered ships was at that moment the one being held by Somalian pirates. How do we call that, shipnapped? Oh the bad news is/was part of the crews in that hijack thing were Filipinos. Oh well.

Yachts? No they don’t make those. Tsuneishi is for the bigger giants! The shipyard beside it though (FBMA Marine?) is a maker of yachts, ro-ros, fastcrafts and other little boats luxurious or not. But that’s a different company and probably another reason to come back!

Bottomline why I appreciate the presence of this ship-building giant is that they employ thousands of Filipinos either as direct employees, contracted employees or suppliers and service providers. Amazing that their engineers and workers come from all over the islands – not just in the Visayas but also even from Mindanao and as far as Metro Manila and beyond! Economic slump? Well, as of our visit, Tsuneishi’s docks will be full with building various ships up until 2013. If you order one now, you will probably get it in 2014 or 2015 as othera are already waiting for their ships. That busy eh! No there is no showroom! And even if you have the millions of $$$, you cannot just hop in and pick the color and model that you like! If you want to see their products, head out to the oceans of the world or the international ports! And oh, take this, none of their customers (meaning past and present buyers of their ships) are Filipinos or Filipino-owned companies. You wanna be first? Go ahead, contact them!

Okay, enough of the dock thing!

After a brief stop at their beautiful administration building for everyone to visit the CRs (yes the johns), our tour continued to head out to our next destination – Asturias. But everyone seemed to have gotten carried away with the rolling tour thing. We did not stop to see the Balamban Church nor their Municipal Building. We just passed and sped by them as the thousands of students (in their uniforms, on a Saturday) lined the streets and waved at us.

Oh lest we forget, Balamban is not all about ships (even if there are two builders and more). Remember Mt. Manunggal? Where the late President Magsaysay’s plane crashed? Well, it is now a paradise for mountaineers and trekkers. Plus the crash area have been spruced up as a memorial. So…

Balamban, mubalik ko! Promise!


For a chronology of the stories in this trip, click the following numbers:
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12


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