[Letters] Offshore platform experts in critical need

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[Letters] Offshore platform experts in critical need

After about a decade since Korea became the leader in the shipbuilding industry, with the most number of contracts in the world, the top position has been taken by China. Before Korea, the United Kingdom and Japan each remained at the top spot for more than four decades, so many Koreans are considerably shocked to learn that Korea has been pushed out so early.

However, we don’t need to worry too much. Korea is still the leader in the four key elements of shipbuilding, namely: infrastructure, technology, human resources and future vision and strategy. Information technology and integration are becoming more advanced and sophisticated and Korean shipbuilders are making strenuous efforts to evolve from the functional concept of cargo transport to design quality, world-class ships that guarantee health, safety and the environment.

However, passion alone cannot make Korea the industry leader in the offshore platform industry. Korea’s stake in the offshore platform construction is over 70 percent of the global market but we rely on other developed countries for key design and engineering technology.

Most of the equipment and materials for the plants are imported. In the shipbuilding industry a design formula has been developed and a system has been established for graduates from four-year colleges can learn and apply the formula after one to two years of training.

However, the offshore platforms require more sophisticated engineering knowledge and technology as each platform should have a different design according to the purpose, size and the marine environment. Therefore, the industry needs professional engineers with advanced degrees. By 2020, at least 2,000 engineers are needed. 70 percent of offshore platform accidents are associated with explosions and fires, and the accident mechanism and risk factors are not completely measured with the current mathematical algorithms.

Therefore, assessment through pilot operation is essential and infrastructure for the test facility is necessary. Lately, the government has included the offshore platform industry in the six leading industries that will support Korea in the future. It is urgent to draw up a thorough and detailed strategy of future vision at a national level.

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.

Paik Jeom-kee,

director of the Ship and Offshore Platform Structural Mechanics Laboratory at Busan National University.
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