Navigating Turbulence: Shipping Industry Surges Amidst Adversity

John Park, chief representative of naval and special ship marketing, Southeast Asia, Hanwha Ocean (former Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering), is certain that for the next 50 years, the shipping and shipbuilding industries will continue to flourish as maritime transportation is still the most efficient way of facilitating global trade.

Prior to being based in Indonesia, Park was responsible for the Asian and American markets, travelling to the United States, Canada, Brazil, Tokyo, and China. The international exposure gave him an appreciation of the impact global events had on the shipping industry. 

Now with the still ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Park is mindful of the war but remains optimistic going forward. The global shipping industry survived the worst period of the Covid pandemic where travel and customs restrictions were in place, and now the industry is experiencing growth once again. 

With all Covid restrictions now lifted, Indonesia and South Korea are again enjoying close working ties again. Under a previous 2019 defense agreement, on hold partly because of the pandemic, Hanwha Ocean has activated the project to build three submarines for the Indonesian government.

Currently, Hanwha is waiting for Indonesia’s minister of defense Prabowo Subianto to sign the letter of credit (L/C) which will kickstart the contract. Park urged Indonesia not to waver and sign immediately as this will benefit both parties. Indonesia will receive training and a transfer of skills and technology.

If drag on any longer, Hanwha will also face challenges.

“Hanwha Ocean must deal with cost increase including item prices, labor cost, everything.” 

Park also added that while Hanwha is doing everything they can in the face of global inflation, but if Indonesia does not sign the L/C by the end of the year, it will be difficult to maintain the current contract price.

Hanwha Ocean reiterated that Indonesia is a very important business partner and the company will support the country in whatever way they are able to.

Nadia, the anime that started it all

For Park, it is a dream comes true to join Hanwha Ocean upon graduating with a degree in naval architecture. His interest in the ocean was sparked by the Japanese anime Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, which he enjoyed as a middle school student at Gangwon Province, a mountainous, forested province in northeast South Korea.

“When I was in middle school, I watched Nadia, a Japanese anime with a submarine in the storyline. At that time, I was amazed that such a transportation existed and I resolved to study naval architecture.”

Nadia is inspired by the works of Jules Verne, particularly Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and the exploits of Captain Nemo. The series follows young inventor Jean and former circus performer Nadia, who are led off to adventure by a secret in Nadia’s pendant.

Park said he learned a lot during his two-year mandatory military service, served at the South Korean Navy where he was assigned to an old destroyer. The practical knowledge and skills gained during this time complemented his university study.

“In the navy, I was part of the staff of a very old destroyer. During this time, I would look at the many manuals from the U.S., including operation manuals, and learn from them,” he recalled.

Park joined Hanwha Ocean in December 2001 as part of the after sales unit. Although not an engineer, he was expected to have detailed and comprehensive knowledge about ships and shipbuilding. He admitted that initially, he had a difficult time but his thirst for knowledge powered him through.

“I was a newcomer, and many things were strange and unfamiliar. However, I filled the gaps in my knowledge by studying manuals and textbooks. My teammates who were engineers also guided me.”

Park has worked for the shipbuilding giant for 20 years, and he has been posted to different departments throughout his career, from sales, planning to marketing. He said he is lucky, seeing it as one of his greatest achievements, as these numerous rotations suited his personality. In South Korea, it is not unusual to work in the same department for 20 to 30 years.

“I believe there are pros and cons of either arrangement. For people who don’t change departments, they may become a subject matter expert and have very in-depth knowledge, but in my case, if I do the same thing for more than two years, I get bored and would start looking for the next challenge.”

Park said the future is bright for the shipping and shipbuilding industries, and he encouraged more young people to join. As a start, he advised students to study relevant courses like naval architecture and ocean engineering, and after that, to look for a job abroad.

“Why not work in Korean or American companies? Or in Australia, which is very close. There are many shipbuilding companies,” he said. 

He added that fresh graduates also have to understand the demands and requirements of the current job market and work hard to acquire those skills and knowledge. Understanding potential companies and knowing what technologies and talents they need go a long way in getting a dream job.

Photo credit: Hanwha Ocean. John Park, chief representative of naval and special ship marketing, Southeast Asia, Hanwha Ocean.

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