Fri, Feb 07, 2003 - Page 4 News List

CSBC wins support for submarine-contract bid

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

After one year of lobbying, the state-run China Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC) has won firm support from the Executive Yuan for its bid to build six of the eight diesel-powered submarines that the US has agreed to provide to Taiwan.

The support has been given in the form of an inter-departmental task force that the Executive Yuan set up to promote the building of the submarines here.

The company is a member of the task force, which means it will have the chance to voice its opinions directly to the government leadership.

The inter-departmental task force was established according to a resolution made by the legislature last May, which requires the executive branch to form the group to the promote the domestic building of submarines.

The resolution, signed by over 130 lawmakers from all parties, marks strong support from the legislature for the efforts by local shipbuilders, represented by the CSBC, to bid for the submarine contracts.

It helped push the Executive Yuan to deliver on its promise to support submarine-construction efforts in Taiwan.

A company official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the establishment of the inter-departmental task force is a big step forward for China Shipbuilding.

"Before the task force was set up, the CSBC had no way to express its opinions to the government leadership. Now we have a seat in the task-force meetings. It means a lot to us," the official said.

The task force, led by two ministers without portfolio, held its first coordination meeting on Jan. 17.

The meeting was chaired by Vice Premier Lin Hsin-i (林信義) and was attended by representatives from the Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Economic Affairs and China Shipbuilding.

A KMT lawmaker, who preferred not to be identified, said the development is good for the company but is still not enough.

"The government only gave lip service to the CSBC at first. It is now willing to take some action due to pressure from the legislature. But we think it could do more," the lawmaker said.

"A group of lawmakers plan to propose to the government that we, rather than the Americans, should be the ones who decide where the eight submarines should be built. We are the buyers," he said.

"We will suggest that the government open up international bidding for the submarine contracts. Every qualified shipbuilder, including the CSBC, will have the same opportunity to win the contract," he said.

"It does not make sense for the US to hold international bidding on our behalf for the contract," he said.

The lawmaker would not reveal how many of his colleagues at the legislature would be willing to join in a campaign to force the government to put the contract out to tender itself.

If the campaign is put into practice, it will add a twist to the navy's plan for the acquisition of the submarines.

The navy initially did not plan to have any of the submarines built domestically.

Buying the submarines from a foreign country would save the navy a lot of time regarding the acquisition and deployment of their new weapons systems.

A rear admiral pointed out that another major concern which hinders the navy from ordering submarines from the CSBC is that there is no qualified institute in the country to certify the quality of submarines made by the company.

"It is fine with us to have the CSBC build submarines for us. They may be as capable as they claim to be. But can we find a third party to test and certify the quality of submarines made by the CSBC?" said the admiral, who declined to be named.

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