Vinashin: A rising giant

-- FROM THE FULL PICTURE MAGAZINE -- As one of Vietnam's leading industrial concerns, the state-owned shipbuilding corporation Vinashin Group plays a vital role in the country's plans for economic expansion. And with about 18,000 skilled employees working in 28 yards, and an additional 10 now under construction, Vietnam's ambitions to emerge as a leading shipbuilding nation may soon be a reality.

Established in 1996, Vinashin's astonishing growth over the last five years has attracted significant interest from the global shipping industry. While the company's 28 existing shipyards produce about 100 vessels a year and is best known for car carriers, crude oil tankers, chemical tankers and feeder container vessels, the company's willingness to work in partnership with international shipowners and suppliers has helped develop the competence to compete for larger and more specialised tonnage.

According to the Vinashin Group's Chief Business Officer, Nguyen Quoc Anh, the company has worked hard to establish itself on the global shipbuilding map. "Vietnam's long coast, proximity to international trading routes, and our access to a young, affordable and open-minded workforce has given us a unique advantage," says Anh. "In addition, the government's support of Vinashin, and welcoming approach to international companies, has given us the tools to grow."

Great expectations

Anh notes that while the company has achieved a lot in pursuit of its ambitions to be ranked the fourth largest shipbuilding nation in the world in the next decade, many challenges remain. "Like many competing yards around the world, recruiting and maintaining skilled workers remains an issue," he says. "We have been successful in hiring and developing yard workers, and are seeking to step up our efforts to attract qualified management personnel."

Recently, Vinashin and the Vietnam Maritime University (VIMARU), announced plans to team up with the Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute and Norway's Marintek and Den Norske Veritas (DNV) to collaborate on a project to enhance capacity development in Vietnam. The objective is to strengthen the training capability and capacity at VIMARU to meet the demands of the international shipowners, with a special focus on naval architecture, ship design, research and development and transportation and logistics education, among other issues.

Competence building

Anh notes that the company is also working with DNV to develop Vietnam's shipbuilding industry through a three year training programme for Vinashin shipyard management and staff, a programme supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). "More than 1,000 individuals have already been through the programme, and over the next three years, we expect about 3,000 workers to complete training."

Another focus area for Vinashin is to improve its management of production risk to ensure they can deliver on customer expectations. "Shipowners have become increasingly sensitive to production delays," says Anh. "We recognize that to remain competitive, we have to not only delivery quality vessels but optimize our work processes to ensure we meet the demands of our customers."

Managing future challenges

Anh notes that by investing in additional training and improved production risk management, the company will be better equipped to manage fresh challenges in the future. "Uncertain global economic conditions may put pressure on the global shipbuilding industry in the coming years," says Anh. "We believe that by building our technical competence and improving our production efficiency now, our affordable cost model will continue to be attractive, especially in more competitive markets."

In the meantime, Vinashin will continue to work in close cooperation with international suppliers. Last summer, Vinashin Group announced collaboration with Kongsberg to supply integrated Monitoring and Control Systems for five new 13,000 Dwt Product/Chemical carriers being built for Greek owner, IASON Hellenic Shipping Co. Ltd. The project, which will take place at the Vinashin Group-owned Pha Rung Shipyard in Hai Phong City east of the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, represents the first cooperation of this size between Vinashin and Kongsberg Maritime.

A new partnership

According to Lasse Brynsrud, Kongsberg Maritime's Sales Manager (Merchant Marine, Asia), the contract represents an exciting opportunity for Kongsberg. "We are excited to take this first step with the Vietnamese shipbuilding sector as it continues its drive to become a major exporter," says Brynsrud. "For many years, we have focused a great deal of energy in Asian shipping markets establishing a network of offices to serve regional markets. With such a strong worldwide network in place supporting our efforts, we are confident we can help Vinashin make Vietnam a major player in world shipbuilding."

Anh says he hopes the partnership with Kongsberg will continue to grow. "We are committed to building high quality, world class vessels for export from our yards in Vietnam and our co-operation with world class suppliers will help us to achieve this aim," says Anh. "And we look forward to a positive relationship with Kongsberg Maritime."

Facts about integrated solutions

The monitoring and control concept chosen by Vinashin Group includes an integrated solution for machinery control and cargo management. The concept relies on a distributed and open system design, which employs a fully backed-up system-wide standardized communication network. The communication network integrates the K-Chief machinery control and K-Gauge level gauging and cargo control, into a complete solution that enables safe and efficient operations. With common hardware components utilized, the system enables both increased reliability and a competitive life-cycle. The system also features ballast and service tank sensors and deck instrumentation. The Kongsberg Maritime Integrated Monitoring and Control System include the sophisticated K-Gauge system with radar tank gauges for accurate cargo tank gauging. The integrated system also offers control of all cargo and ballast valves.