Recently I was fortunate enough to embark upon a visit to the ship building region of South Korea. The south east region of South Korea, around the cities of Ulsan, Busan and Geoje Island, is home to three of the largest shipyards in the world – Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) and Daewoo Ship and Marine Engineering (DSME).  These yards dominate the towns and landscapes that they occupy, the HHI yard for example covering an area of 1,780 acres.  Amazingly, this dominant position in world shipbuilding has been reached in just 40 years,  HHI’s yard having been commissioned in 1974.

The visit provided us with an invaluable insight into what our customers are experiencing in this market, their needs and how important a role torque tools and solutions play in modern marine engineering.

What became clear is that a shift has taken place in South Korean shipbuilding towards high value, high sophistication vessels.  While they may still be building container ships, they are now focussed on the very largest such as the Maersk Triple E Class.  The “Triple E” refers to the design principles of: economy of scale, energy efficiency and environmentally improved.  These are not only the longest ships in service but also the most energy efficient per TEU (20 foot equivalent unit) container carried.

The even more fascinating areas are those of FPSO ships, LNG carriers and ultra-deepwater drill ships.  FPSO stands for floating production, storage and offloading and these ships are capable of processing hydrocarbons at sea, replacing the traditional on-shore oil refinery.  All of the bolting applications that exist in on-shore facilities are now replicated off shore and this fact is one of the drivers behind the changing needs for tools both within the shipyards and at sea. FPSO ships typically have many miles of pipes and a multitude of flanges – making torque tools an essential manufacturing and maintenance aid.

South Korea’s shipbuilding industry is responsible for highly sophisticated drilling and production ships such as the Deep Water Invictus and Attwood Invictus (ultra-deepwater drill ships, both capable of drilling in 12,000 ft of water to a drill depth of 40,000 ft). To shed light on the cost of such a ship, the Asia edition of the Wall Street Journal noted that on 16th October 2013, DSME won an order from Trans-Ocean to build one drill ship priced at US$528m.  The article also noted that there are 92 drill-ships worldwide, to be joined by a further 76 drill ships by 2017 - nearly double the amount in just three years!

The ship building market has a huge global influence and in recent years the top ten companies across the world have been based in South Korea. The Korean trade ministry claims that 80% of these aforementioned drill-ships are Korean built, which is no surprise as the market has continued to strengthen since the US recession which had prompted a decline in the European ship building market.

As advancements are made in the Korean high value shipping market, marine engineers need to look to torque solution providers to guarantee accurate, safe and innovative fastenings.