Taiwan’s national defense industry to create 8,000 jobs: president

President Tsai Ing-wen is seen in this file photo taken on Feb. 25, 2019. The president estimates that Taiwan’s national defense industry, boosted by the government’s program to build naval ships at home, could create at least 8,000 “high-quality” jobs. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) estimated on Feb. 25 that Taiwan’s national defense industry, boosted by the government’s program to build naval ships at home, could create at least 8,000 “high-quality” jobs.

Addressing a convention of local suppliers supporting Taiwan’s home-grown naval vessel program, Tsai said the shipbuilding deals crafted recently under the program are expected to result in an output value of as much as NT$40.5 billion (US$1.32 billion).

The president did not provide details of the “deals” in the speech but lauded the program as saving Taiwan’s shipbuilding industry from collapse amid a global recession in that sector.

“The global shipbuilding sector hit a low in recent years that led to two-thirds of shipbuilders around the world to shut down,” Tsai said, noting that what the industry needs the most right now is “orders.”

Tsai said Taiwan’s shipbuilding industry has outstanding technical capabilities, but the only way to develop it further is to “build naval ships on our own.” Through this self-reliance, the Navy and Coast Guard Administration (CGA) have introduced many opportunities for domestic companies, she said.

Calling national defense an “important strategic industry” of the 5+2 Major Innovative Industries Plan, Tsai said Taiwan spends a lot to meet it security needs, and that spending should be used for more than just military procurements.

They should also serve, she said, as a force to boost the country’s economic growth and fuel the innovation of industrial technologies.

It should be the engine that “leads businesses in the shipbuilding and peripheral machinery, materials and electrical machinery sectors to research and develop high-end technologies,” she said.

The suppliers’ convention was held by CSBC Corp. Taiwan, the country’s largest shipbuilder, to promote the “localization” of the construction of naval ships and integrate the abilities of other related sectors, according to the company.

The one-day event gathered nearly 200 representatives of 70 businesses, the Taiwan Shipbuilding Industry Association, the Taiwan Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, and related government institutions and departments.

Local news reports said CSBC has secured nearly NT$20 billion worth of contracts under the government’s homegrown naval ships program, including a 4,000-ton frigate purchased by the CGA.

At the convention, CSBC Chairman Cheng Wen-lon (鄭文隆) said the government program is entering its prime this year and will last until 2025.

During the period, the program will generate annual output of between NT$18 billion to NT$34 billion each year, with the number of people employed in the businesses serving the program to reach 5,100 to 9,400 a year, Cheng estimated.

The shipbuilder cautioned, however, that more needs to be done on standards verification for the parts and components of the planned naval ships, as Taiwan currently lacks a verification system.

Standards verification affects product quality, supplier reputations, and potential exports, Cheng said, and he urged the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Ministry of National Defense to set up a verification system to help the local shipbuilding program expand its influence.

Asked about a plan for CSBC to build submarines, Cheng said the company will deliver its design report on March 21 as required.

He said a prototype of an indigenous submarine Taiwan is developing is scheduled to be tested in January 2024 and commissioned in 2025.

By Liao Yu-yang, Wei Shu and Elizabeth Hsu