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The Tri-Star Megalink Corporation is a Western Visayan shipping company with headquarters in Bacolod and Cadiz City. They have been on the rise in the recent years and they are now the biggest Western Visayas ferry company if 2GO is excluded in the equation. What is remarkable for them, however, is they build their own ferries and that is the benefit of owning a shipyard, a facility they have in Cadiz City and bearing the same name. Though their routes are short-distance, what they build are ferries normally associated with the size of overnight ferries as their lengths are fully 60 meters.
Tri-Star Megalink Corporation is a recent entrant in the ferry-RORO business in the late 1990’s. Their first two ferries were LCTs, the MV Tabuelan Navistar and the MV Cadiz Navistar which showed their routes and their origins. The MV Tabuelan Navistar was the former MV MATIMCO 1, of the namesake company, which was a wood company but operated ships (not an unusual situation in the Philippines where many wood, lumber and logging companies also operated ships, until now).
This shipping company has only two routes, the Bacolod-Dumangas route which connects Negros and Panay islands and the the Escalante-Tabuelan route which connects Negros and Cebu island. They dominate the important Bacolod-Dumangas route where they sail ferries every two hours either way in most hours. As a note, their main competition here is the powerful Montenegro Shipping Lines which has so many ships. And yet it is Tri-Star Megalink Corporation which continues to grow in that strategic route and able to keep Montenegro Lines at bay.
Tristar Megalink Corporation is known for offering the lowest fares and the lowest RORO rates in the Bacolod-Dumangas route and for being accommodating in called reservations. Having bigger ships is always an advantage in offering more capacity and more amenities. Maybe having an own shipyard is also a plus on the maintenance and improvement of the ships. And possessing a bigger fleet means more ship availability especially in the peak seasons. It is in this route where Tri-Star Megalink concentrates its 60-meter ferries. Meanwhile, the Escalante-Tabuelan route is the mainstay of their earlier and smaller LCTs.
From the year 2002, Tri-Star Megalink Corporation rolled out an own-built ferry-RORO almost every two years starting with the LCT Sr. Sto. Nino Navistar. This was followed in 2005 by the LCT Holy Trinity Navistar. In 2008, the LCT Archangels Navistar followed. And then in 2010, they fielded the LCT Holy Family Navistar and the LCT St. Isidore Navistar in the same year. Then in 2014, they came up with the LCT Our Lady of the Philippines Navistar. Recently, they rolled out the LCT St. Isidore Navistar Two.
They might have called their own-built ships as “LCTs” but more and more they do not look like LCTs. The middle ones looked like the Korean hybrid LCTs. And then starting with LCT St. Isidore Navistar they looked like regular ROROs already. Maybe they have already mastered the craft of building the ship bridges at the bow or front. And that is one more remarkable thing about Tri-Star Megalink — their ship building showed progressive improvement in design. From LCTs, they graduated in convetional ROROs and that is no mean feat.
It is possible that all their local-builds from 2002 are all sister ships as they share the same dimensions at 60 meters length x 11 meters breadth. If their hull form are all the same then they are really sister ships. Maybe having found a correct hull formula they felt there is no more need to vary it. If a bigger and more comfortable passenger accommodation is needed then the proper approach really is just to move the bridge forward. That design also means more protection from the elements in the car deck especially the rain which can drench people and make the car deck slippery.
From the slow 10-11 knots of their LCTs, Tri-Star Megalink is also concerned now with the speed. Some of their new or re-engined ones can now reach 13 knots and in fierce competition that matters. The conventional ROROs now have airconditioned passenger compartments, an amenity not usually found in LCTs or even basic, short-distance ferry-ROROs. Incremental improvements is one of the elements for a shipping company to continually better their competition and dominate.
I hope we have not seen the last of their improvements. They should be a inspiration for the other shipping companies (like Maayo Shipping) and their shipbuilding should be an lesson for our shipyards.