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KSOE head puts focus on R&D to fight competition

June 12,2019
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Kwon Oh-gap
Kwon Oh-gap, chief executive of Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering, said the company will hire more researchers to boost technology-driven growth in an internal email sent to employees Tuesday.

It is the first email Kwon has sent to employees since Hyundai Heavy Industries split into two entities - Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering, an intermediate holding company, and Hyundai Heavy Industries, an operating company - last month.

“Shipbuilding has been a labor-intensive industry, but our company will transform the industry to be more dependent on new technologies,” Kwon said in email. “With fast followers like Chinese competitors growing based on cheap labor and more companies from resource-abundant countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia preparing to start shipbuilding businesses, we need innovation to continue leading the market.”

To bolster the company’s technology development, Kwon said he plans to gradually hire more employees at a new R&D center to be built in Pangyo, Gyeonggi, by 2021. He said the company will fully support an R&D team that could number up to 5,000 employees.

The CEO, however, did not give a clear timeline on when hiring will take place.

Some of the new technologies Kwon said will be crucial for the local shipbuilding industry to survive in the future include developing eco-friendly ships and smart ships.

Eco-friendly ships or technologies to make existing ships eco-friendlier are in high demand as the International Maritime Organization is tightening environmental guidelines. Ships have to use marine fuel with a sulfur content of no more than 0.5 percent from January 2020, a huge cut from the current limit of 3.5 percent.

Also as cars get smarter with autonomous driving technologies and wireless internet connectivity, shipbuilders are trying to make their ships capable of self-monitoring and finding sea routes on their own.

Kwon also shared his ambition to make all of Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering’s subsidiaries prosper under its leadership.

Currently, the company stands as a holding unit for Hyundai Heavy Industries, Hyundai Mipo Dockyard and Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering will officially become its new subsidiary once regulators approve of the takeover.

“I will make sure each subsidiary has autonomy in management and seek ways to grow together,” he said. “I have devoted more than half of my life in the Korean shipbuilding industry and I believe my last mission is to reinvigorate the industry.”

According to May data from global shipping and shipbuilding market tracker Clarksons Research, Korean shipbuilders won 60 percent of the orders made last month, while China took 26 percent.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]