‘ClassNK is keen to support Indian maritime industry’

Noboru Ueda,
Chairman and President, ClassNK
CHEMTECH Foundation bestowed SMP World Expo 2014 ‘Lifetime Achievement’ Award upon Noboru Ueda, ClassNK Chairman for his contribution to the global maritime industry. During his inaugural speech of SMP World Expo 2014 themed on Maritime Industry – Bridge to Economic Sustainability, he appreciated ChemTech Foundation’s efforts for organising such a grand event & explored this opportunity to further strengthen cooperation between the two countries for more business alliances. He talks to SMP World during the event. Excerpts:

Japan government’s initiatives and technical innovations & research have evolved Japanese maritime industry by taking it to upward trajectory movement. Its prowess in shipbuilding and expertise in technology have carved a niche for the country in the global shipping industry. India needs JSMEA (Japan Ship Machinery & Equipment Association) kind of association, which binds together machinery and equipment manufacturers on one platform. Being dynamic country with well established shipping and ship building industry, India has highly educated and dedicated workforce. Japanese shipbuilders are keen to expand collaboration overseas. Investment of Japanese technology expertise can further give competitive edge to the Indian shipping industry. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ has joint venture with India’s L&T for providing technology license & global support for building large commercial vessels and it will continue in future also. ClassNK has respectable partners in India including Indian Register of Shipping (IRS), Indian classification society. It has formed closed bonding with IRS. These two societies represent an apt example of meaningful contribution between two countries.

How does it feel beginning career with ClassNK & becoming the Chairman and President?
ClassNK was established in Japan in 1899, and is Asia’s first classification society. ClassNK has made many contributions to the global maritime industry over its some 110 year history, and is one of the founding members of the International Association of Classification Societies.

I began my career joining ClassNK’s Hull Department in 1969, and I have worked in almost every aspect of classification over my 45 years in the maritime industry. Since my election to Chairman and President in 2008, ClassNK increased the number of exclusive survey offices in its service network by 33 per cent to 129 offices across the world to date. In addition, our register grew by over 65 million gross tons, and in 2012 we became the first classification society in history to have over 200 million gross tons under class. I believe that this growth represents the trust that we have gained from clients through our services. I am very proud to serve as Chairman and President of ClassNK.

How did you steer the growth of ClassNK as Chairman and President in becoming the world’s first classification society to have more than 200 million gross tons on its register?
The needs of the maritime industry have become increasingly diversified over recent years. Responding to these needs and providing our customers with the highest quality services in a timely manner have been essential to ClassNK’s growth.

We established our first mid-term business plan “Global Approach 200” in 2011, where we set out a number of goals to increase ship registrations based on three main strategies: building a solid operational structure that facilitates a swift response to changes in the market environment, maintaining ClassNK’s position of dominance and market share in ship classification, and a more proactive approach to business development. The plan was very successful. By accomplishing these objectives through the collective efforts of everyone at ClassNK, we were able to increase the trust of our clients, which we believe has led to the greater increase in terms of gross tonnage in our classed fleet we are seeing today.

We strive to satisfy the needs of our clients across the world through activities such as the provision of high quality survey services, the expansion of our survey network, and the support we give to our clients for new international conventions. Through this we have earned the trust of the industry, which has witnessed ClassNK’s progress as the first classification society in history to have over 200 million gross tons on register.

What are the measures taken by ClassNK in energy efficiency of ships?
With various new international conventions being brought in to help in protecting the environment, ship owners are facing the challenge of meeting the requirements of these conventions. That is why ClassNK develops rules, guidance, and procedures, and conducts a wide variety of research and development projects in order to help ship owners comply with these new regulations and ensure the safety of its classed fleet. ClassNK is constantly working in partnership with leaders of the industry to develop environmentally sound solutions for the benefit of the entire maritime community.

ClassNK also established a research scheme to respond to the needs of the entire industry, providing both technical and financial support to various joint research projects being carried out to search for solutions to environmental issues, including projects to improve the energy efficiency of ships. ClassNK joined a Japanese national project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over four years, supporting 22 different research projects, and contributed in producing many valuable results such as the air lubrication technology, which reduces fuel consumption and emissions through reduced frictional resistance. ClassNK has also been involved in another national project; Next Generation Maritime Environmental Technology Development Program, since 2013, and has been giving both technical and financial support towards the program.

ClassNK will be able to use the results gained from the R&D carried out as part of this scheme to help provide owners with a range of innovative technical solutions.

The global shipping sector is showing recessionary trends due to overcapacity of vessels & decline in freight rates? How is it going to affect the margins of ClassNK? In such scenario how do you envisage the growth of the sector?
ClassNK is an independent third-party non-profit organization, and as such we do not have margins. Our mission is to ensure the safety of life and property at sea and protect the marine environment. Whether vessel numbers decline or not, ClassNK will continue to provide surveys and technical services as well as work in partnership with the industry for the benefit of the entire maritime industry. While overcapacity and decline in freight rates may present challenges to owners in the short term, I believe that with continuing innovation the long-term outlook for the industry is bright.

Can you please apprise us about the growth prospects for ClassNK in Indian Markets? What are your future plans for the same?
In the past couple of decades, India has become a major player in the maritime industry, and ClassNK’s operations in India have expanded to meet the growing needs of the Indian maritime industry.

ClassNK began actively serving the Indian maritime industry after signing a cooperation agreement with the Indian Register of Shipping in 1984. Since the establishment of our Mumbai Office in 1985 we have expanded our Indian service network over the years, and now operate six exclusive survey offices throughout the country. During this time we established the Indian Committee in 1994, which is held each year to reflect the opinions of ClassNK’s Indian clients as well as discuss the latest topics affecting the industry. In addition, we established the Indian Technical Committee in 2011, which is also held each year to provide owners in the region with an opportunity to discuss the latest technical topics. We plan to continue holding these committee meetings as well as various technical seminars to provide the opportunity for exchange with members of the Indian maritime industry as well as share the latest technical information.

India’s abundance of skilled maritime professionals and high level of professionalism will ensure that it remains a vital part of the global maritime industry. ClassNK is dedicated to supporting the local maritime community and providing the highest quality services, and will continue to maintain a strong presence in India.