Hyundai Heavy Industries to reopen Gunsan shipyard on surging orders


Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) has decided to resume the operation of its shipyard on a 1.8 million square meters area of land in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, starting next January, six years after the shipbuilding industry recession caused its shutdown in 2017, the company said, Thursday.

The shipbuilder’s latest decision has been mainly attributed to the recent global shipbuilding boom which enabled Korean shipbuilders to win orders of 17.5 million compensated gross tonnage (CGT) in 2021, up 113 percent from the previous year.

“We will inspect our facilities and equipment to create a safer workplace, making every effort to train workers,” HHI CEO Han Young-seuk said in an agreement ceremony regarding the cooperation of the company and the central and local governments for a successful reopening of the shipyard. “After finishing preparatory works by the end of this year, we will hire 750 workers to produce 100,000 tons of blocks for large container ships annually, starting in 2023.”

President Moon Jae-in also attended the event to welcome the shipyard’s reopening, as he had promised to carry out policies to support its normalization, when he was running for president in early 2017.

“It is especially expected to play a major role in manufacturing eco-friendly vessels,” he said. “Once the Gusan shipyard starts producing blocks for LNG- and LPG-fueled vessels, it will further increase our country’s market share in manufacturing environment-friendly ships, where we have overwhelmed competitors.”

Domestic shipbuilders clinched 64 percent of orders for eco-friendly vessels on the global market last year, up from 62 percent in 2020 and 57 percent in 2019, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Moon said that Korea aims to increase its global market share to 75 percent by 2030, improving core technologies for low-carbon vessels and bracing for the era of zero-carbon vessels, such as ships powered by hydrogen and ammonia.

The governments of North Jeolla Province and Gunsan vowed to finance HHI for the company to hire workers, support its subcontractors and operate buses to the shipyard.

They also plan to cover part of the shipbuilder’s maritime logistics costs for three years.

The city’s economy has suffered severe difficulties, following the shutdown of the shipyard in July 2017 and the closure of GM Korea’s factory in February 2018.

In order to support the two companies’ troubled subcontractors and discover new opportunities to create jobs, the central government has injected 3 trillion won ($2.5 billion) into the region over the past four years.

Considering that most of HHI’s subcontractors have survived with the help of the injected funds, the government said it expects the shipbuilder to create synergy with them, once the company reopens its Gunsan shipyard.