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Nobu Su lines up yet another court case

Nobu Su, the failed Taiwanese shipowner turned serial maritime inventor, is lining up yet another court fight.

Since the dramatic collapse of his firm TMT in the wake of the global financial crisis, Su has become embroiled in many court cases, notably against former senior management at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) as well as miner BHP Billiton and shipbroker Clarkson.

Now, Su has told Splash he intends to sue South Korea’s patent office, the Korean Intellectual Property Office.

Su’s hybrid propulsion system, first unveiled at last year’s Posidonia exhibition in Athens, has been patented in many countries including by shipbuilding giants Japan and China. However, South Korea has failed to grant Su a patent for the system which aims to mitigate marine pollution by reducing the required volume of ballast water by 90%.

The system, known as HybridShip, consists of the ship’s conventional propulsion system plus retractable duct propellers, which can be retrofitted and can be installed on any vessel.

The retractable propellers, which have a 4 m draft below the vessel’s hull, essentially negate the need for such a large volume of ballast water to lower the main propeller into the water.

While in hybrid mode, the vessel sails using electrical generators and the retractable duct propellors installed on its hull, in addition to its main engine and propeller.

“Korea said it is common sense so anyone can think about it,” Su told Splash, adding: “I plan to sue the Korea patent office for unfair practice.”

Su has many other patents to his name, including OceanNet, something he claims could become the Google Car of shipping.

One of his most recent patents, approved in the US earlier this year, is for a revolutionary new FLNG design.

Su told Splash he has no intentions of returning to shipowning anytime soon. “I’m sorry to see many shipping people still making the same mistakes of ordering ships,” Su said.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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