THE DEPARTMENT of Science and Technology (DoST) has tied up with universities in the Western Visayas to develop modern seagoing vessels that meet international safety standards.

The DoST signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) last week with the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV), Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College (NIPSC), Iloilo State College of Fisheries (ISCoF), University of Antique (UA), Aklan State University (ASU), and Guimaras State College (GSC), along with Metallica Shipyard.

The MoU formalizes the establishment of the Western Visayas Marine Transport Research and Development Network, which will also come up with a long-term research program for marine transportation.

DoST-Region 6 Director Rowen S. Gelonga said the department is positioning the Western Visayas to become the hub for marine transport research and development.

“We are very serious in addressing the modernization constraints to our shipping sector,” he said.

Within the informal network, the institutions and DoST-6 have been developing three new boat designs.

One currently being developed by ASU is a 150-seater hybrid trimaran, which will harness the ocean’s wave energy.

It will also be a roll-on/roll-off commercial vessel that can carry four vehicles.

Mr. Gelonga said a prototype of the vessel is being fabricated and is targeted for sea trials by April.

“(It’s an) experimental vessel, we are still not sure if we can generate profit, or power from ocean energy, but essentially we are exploring that possibility,” he said.

Following the ferry losses on the Iloilo Strait in early August, when three traditional outrigger motorboats capsized and 31 people died, the DoST has been working with GSC and a private institution develop an alternative to the wooden-hulled bancas plying the Iloilo-Guimaras route.

“The 60-seater modern passenger vessel would present an alternative to wooden-hulled bancas. Research is currently ongoing but we plan to present it once finished to the government of Guimaras,” Mr. Gelonga said.

A third project, involving NIPSC, aims to provide a safer and more durable vessel to fishermen.

“It is ironic that we supply a majority of seafarers and we are an archipelagic country yet wala kita sang (we don’t have a) viable shipping sector. But we have the talent, especially in fabricating our ships. That is why we are coming up with a very aggressive research program in Western Visayas,” he said. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo