In his first interview with overseas media since assuming the top job at Korean Register, Hyung-chul Lee lays out his ambitions as chairman and CEO of the world’s seventh largest class society.
After 31 years loyal service at the Busan-headquartered firm, Lee took the reins on December 23 last year. He has quickly established what his priorities will be during his tenure, which lasts through to the end of 2022.
“KR’s transition to a fully digitalised classification society is on the top of my list,” Lee says, citing the company’s progress in developing condition-based maintenance as an example of this digital drive.
“KR is working with shipowners and data analysis companies to install sensors on essential and auxiliary equipment onboard newbuild and existing vessels to collect meaningful data which will be used to promote practical maintenance and energy efficiency of vessels,” Lee explains.
Some of the other digitalisation work undertaken by KR involves building big data platforms, e-certificate systems, remote inspection technologies and virtual reality.
“With the fourth industrial revolution becoming more and more embedded in the maritime industry, new technical advancements such as autonomous ships and digitalisation will become the key driving forces behind innovation and sustainable growth. To this end, I am confident that our technical competency in the IT sector will provide us the competitive edge required to excel,” Lee asserts.
The KR fleet is currently comprised of 65% Korean owners and 35% international customers. Lee is determined to be less reliant on his home base detailing plans to hire more local staff members around the world allowing KR to overcome barriers created by different language, culture and business practices.
On the new fuel debate raging across shipping at the moment, the class veteran concedes that LNG as a transition fuel is unavoidable at present, but he favours hydrogen and ammonia going forward.
Latest data from Clarkson puts the KR classed fleet in seventh place, around 200m gt behind the biggest names in the business, but Lee is adamant KR’s size is an advantage in day-to-day business operations.
“One of the unique traits that our society has over other class societies is that we are very nimble in decision-making and can offer bespoke solutions for our customers quickly, to help them cope with the ever changing business environment,” Lee says, stressing the importance of being agile. As an example of the management agility Lee is describing, KR executives hold a top management meeting every Monday and discuss issues that have arisen in the previous week to seek solutions to difficult problems.
The KR boss goes on to quote media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who said 21 years ago: “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”
Clearly KR under Lee intends to speed up the centuries-old class business.