Collaboration and Expertise lead to Maritime Success

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Collaboration and Expertise lead to Maritime Success


Masahiro Akiyama, Chairman, OPRF

As an industrial exporting powerhouse, Japan has a reputation second to none. The country has manufactured every conceivable mode of transportation, from ‘green’ hybrid vehicles, the groundbreaking ‘Shinkansen’ trains, high performance ‘MotoGP’ motorcycles and even a significant portion of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. As the first country in Asia to develop their own shipbuilding industry, Japan is continuing to build on its reputation as a pioneer in the international shipping industry.

When the shipbuilding industry in Japan achieved international recognition in the 1970s, South Korea was one of the first nations to identify the industry as a driver for their own economic growth. It look decades, for the country overtake Japan as the world’s largest shipbuilding nation, which it finally accomplished in 2003. China began its own manufacturing of vessels in the 1990’s and is expected to overtake South Korea in the next few years and become the largest shipbuilding nation by gross tonnage.


Makoto Igarashi, Vice President, JSA

While the quality of new buildings in China has increased significantly, Japan’s legendary ‘quality first’ credo and dedication to environmental technologies has enabled Japan to remain a significant player in the industry despite increased international competition and higher price tags on Japanese built vessels.

“Craftsmanship plays a very important role within Japanese culture and this is reflected in our shipbuilding industry. Japanese shipyards only hire the most highly trained expert craftsman to work on their vessels,” says Hiroaki Sakashita, Deputy Director-General of the Maritime Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Japan’s Asian neighbors continue to build low-costs vessels and with the appreciation of the yen against the dollar, high material prices and increasing labor costs, Japan’s shipbuilding industry faces many challenges. Sakashita: “To remain competitive in the world market, Japanese shipyards are continuing build highly sophisticated, quality vessels that are equipped with the latest innovations in industry technology.”

Recent innovations have focused on ‘green shipping’, an aspect of the shipping industry in which Japan has remained a leader. Conceptualization and development of new categories of vessels have included reducing CO2 emissions. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries recently finalized a conceptual design for a new Panamax containership vessel which reduces CO2 emissions by thirty five percent. IHI Marine United has developed a design for a 13,000 TEU-class type container ship which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and cuts fuel consumption by thirty percent.


Ship launching ceremony at a Japanese shipyard


Shoichi Kitamura, Executive Managing Director, Japan Marine Equipment Association

In order to further drive innovations, almost all Japanese shipyards collaborate with industry associations, universities and think tanks. One example is the Ocean Policy Research Foundation which develops new technologies to reduce harmful emissions and improve vessel efficiencies.

“In order to reinforce Japan’s competitiveness within the global shipbuilding industry, we undertake comprehensive research and prepare major studies on ocean policy and maritime technology. We also encourage international co-operation and facilitate open dialogues on industry developments,” says Masahiro Akiyama, Chairman of Ocean Policy Research Foundation.

The development of innovative environmental technologies is not limited to the shipbuilding industry. Solutions developed by the maritime cluster which lead to safer and greener technologies are being applied to supporting industries.


Hiroaki Sakashita, Deputy Director General Maritime Bureau, MLIT

The Japan Marine Equipment Association consists of almost three hundred members. Accounting for a significant portion of the supply chain, the association’s members support initiatives towards cleaner technologies.

“Our members are some of the most respected companies in their fields and supply the shipbuilding industry with high quality, innovative environmental technology solutions,” says Shoichi Kitamura, Executive Managing Director of the Japan Marine Equipment Association. Member companies include manufacturers of diesel engines, navigational equipment, shaft and propeller systems, deck and marine auxiliary machineries and marine boilers.

“What helps drive our industry is the close collaboration between the various actors within the sector. While ninety percent of Japanese ship owners order from local shipyards, ninety five percent of Japanese shipbuilders order from Japanese equipment manufacturers,” says Kitamura.

As an export driven economy with high levels of imported foreign goods, Japan depends heavily on its shipping and logistics sectors – the country’s commercial fleet is the largest in the world. NYK Line, K Line, Mitsui O.S.K. line and Nippon Express remain some of the biggest names in global shipping and in addition to their well-established global networks; these shipping giants provide a vital link from Japan to the world.

“When discussing the significance of international shipping in terms of our own economy, China is perhaps Japan’s single most important market,” explains Makoto Igarashi, Vice President of The Japanese Ship owners’ Association. “Our Ship owners have a long history of conducting business in China and they are continuing to secure long term contracts with companies engaged in steel, chemicals, power plants and other industries.”

As bilateral trade between the world’s second and third largest economies continues to grow, so too does China’s coverage of the entire shipping industry’s supply chain. Japanese marine equipment and machinery manufacturers, shipping houses and logistics companies have a significant presence in China, Most companies have multiple offices throughout China and some Japanese shipyards even have manufacturing capabilities in China.

Trading companies such as The China & Japan Marine Industries Ltd., Kyushu-based logistics provider GENEQ Corporation and Shipbrokers Matsui & Company recognize the advantages of working closely with China.

“I believe the Chinese economy will continue to grow”, says Sakashita. “In order to sustain the country’s expected growth, it is essential to further develop the cooperation which has been established between Chinese and Japanese companies”.

In 2011, the International Maritime Organization’s forty member council elected Japan’s Koji Sekimizu to the position of Secretary-General. Sakashita: “This appointment is very significant for Japan and the rest of Asia as Sekimizu is the first Asian to be elected as Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization. We are proud of the fact that Asian countries are increasing their representation in the organization”.


Ship being built by Imabari Shipbuilding Co., Ltd

Throughout Asia and the rest of the world, opportunities for the industry to come together in major maritime hubs are highly anticipated. ‘SEA JAPAN 2012’ takes place in Tokyo from April 18-20, 2012 and is seen as platform for Japanese maritime companies to showcase their latest technologies and establish partnerships.

Sakashita: “Working alongside one another within the maritime industry has enabled Japan to remain competitive. We have the desire to push the limits of technology and seek new business opportunities. In addition, strengthening our relationship with China is very important for the future of our industry”.

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