Seoul - Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. are embracing automation to build critical sections of their giant container ships, some of which extend 400 meters (430 yards) in length.
Boosting productivity is mission critical in an industry that needs about 200 people to build one vessel and faces severe pricing pressure. A sharp drop in oil since the second half of 2014, when a barrel of oil fetched more than $100 compared with over $60 now, has hit vessel orders hard, forcing shipmakers to cut thousands of jobs and shutter some docks. Ship prices have tumbled close to 10 percent during the past three years.
“In this current environment, it’s very important to cut costs wherever possible,” said Lee Jae-won, an analyst at Yuanta Securities Korea Co. in Seoul. “These automation efforts will begin to pay off once orders start to show clearer signs of recovery, probably from the second half of this year.” Hyundai Heavy, the world’s biggest shipbuilder, and its two affiliates delivered 138 vessels last year, compared with about 180 in 2016.