LOCAL shipping firms should start looking for ships in countries such as China than wait for the country’s shipyards to manufacture vessels for the domestic market, an official of the National Development Company (NDC) advised. The official said local firms and the government should stop dreaming of sourcing their ship requirements locally when there are presently no shipyards capable of manufacturing a vessel. "Who are we to question the quality of vessel products from China, when there are no capable shipyards here to build vessels? Majority are all for ship repairs," the official said. "We are saying the same thing with products from Taiwan a few years back. Now, where are they compared with us?" he added. He stressed 90% of the country’s shipyards are for ship repair and maintenance, and the remaining 10% (including Cebu-based companies FBMA, Inc. and Keppel Philippines Marine, Inc.) while able to manufacture vessels choose to do so for the export market. The official, who was tasked to revitalize the country’s shipping industry, said NDC is willing to fund ship acquisition of local firms, even if this means importing from other countries. He said firms should start looking at ship acquisition between now and December rather than wait for next year. International shipyards are booked until 2010. It takes between three and five years to manufacture a vessel. The official’s statement counters that of Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) administrator Vicente Suazo Jr’s, who said local firms should look at local shipyards for their requirements. He said Marina is already encouraging the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy to source their requirements locally rather than procure their ships from Taiwan or the United Kingdom. Suazo also said shipping firms may have difficulty buying second-hand ships abroad since international vessel owners are holding on to their assets as much as they can due to rising iron prices.