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Turkey dethroned world leaders in special-purpose shipbuilding

Marines are now talking ‘ship 5.0’. The sector is not discussing the construction of autonomous ships, but the measures to be taken against cyber attacks, ‘big data’ and who will take legal responsibility for the trade with these ships. While digital investments are increasing in the sector, there is also an intensity on the domestic software agenda.

Organized for the first time this year under the leadership of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, and planned to become a tradition in the coming years, the Turkish Maritime Summit was held in Shipyard Istanbul on 1-3 July 2021 as a hybrid event. At the Turkish Maritime Summit, which started with the Maritime and Cabotage Day celebrations, the industry’s potential and future vision were discussed, and various panels were held.

Speaking at the summit, Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Adil Karaismailoğlu pointed out that it is necessary to follow the movements in the world regarding maritime and said, “Today, the trade volume in the world is 12 billion tons. These numbers are expected to double by 2030. That’s why we need to be prepared for 2030.”

According to the news of Aysel Yücel from Dünya Newspaper, within the scope of the event, the panel on ‘Digitalization in Maritime’ moderated by our Chairman of the Board of Directors Hakan Güldağ; Türk Loydu Chairman of the Board of Directors Cem Melikoğlu, Havelsan General Manager Dr. Mehmet Akif Nacar, Former Undersecretary of UAB, General Manager of Navis ConsultingDr. Özkan Poyraz, TC UAB Coastal Safety General Manager Durmuş Ünüvar and Yılport Operations President Ian James attended as speakers. In the panel, the reflections of digitalization in the maritime sector were discussed holistically.

Speaking at the panel, Former Undersecretary of UAB, General Manager of Navis Consulting Dr. Özkan Poyraz pointed out that a future that includes the internet of things, artificial intelligence, robotics and automatic machines awaits the sector and said, “There are autonomous ship trials. If we call steamships and sailing ships a ship 1.0, today perhaps we should say ‘ship 5.0’ to ships with intelligent shift systems, intelligent collision avoidance systems. They seem to have stepped a little above Industry 4.0 as well,” he said.

Poyraz said that it is necessary to look at how these developments reflect on the ship, ship management and the organizations related to the port, and how ready the industry is for them, and said, “How ready are the social life of people and other services surrounding these services, from cyber security to the internet of things, for this object. This process will be complete when they are ready. So making the autonomous ship is not important. Are utilities ready for this? In my opinion, it is not ready at the moment,” he said.

Poyraz emphasized that one of the issues that should be emphasized the most is ‘Big data’ and said, “Which of the dozens of services can be digitized as business-oriented, we need to focus on this. The biggest problem in Turkey is qualified personnel. Sailors should be busy with computers. Computers in the future. It will include virtual reality,” he said.


Durmuş Ünüvar, General Manager of UAB Coastal Safety, drew attention to the fact that e-navigation constitutes the backbone of the digital transformation of maritime. E-navigation is defined as ensuring that all elements of maritime work in harmony for safe navigation from port to port and the use of technology for this purpose.

Stating that the goal of e-navigation is to bring the maritime infrastructure to a level similar to the world-wide integrated high technology used in aviation, Ünüvar said, “When the analyzes made with the use of the technologies specified in this context are examined; It is concluded that operating costs have decreased by 12 percent, energy use and emission rates have decreased by 34 percent. This process ultimately paves the way for unmanned maritime transport,” he said.

Ünüvar said that they are working to closely follow the digitalization steps of maritime and to set the standards in the areas served in the future.


Türk Loydu Chairman of the Board of Directors Cem Melikoğlu emphasized that digitalization will increase efficiency, speed and performance and said, “We have transferred our plan approval system to the electronic environment. At this stage, the pandemic intervened. Two-thirds of our staff worked from home. We also noticed that our performance has increased. The customer is also happy. At that time, we said, let’s go this way. Now we’re dealing with bigger moves. Now we will draw the ship in 3D and process everything on this plan and ensure that it is in that memory.”

Yilport’s Head of Operations, Ian James, said, “We have seen the benefits of our digital investments in the past during the pandemic, our work has become easier. The port business is also moving in this direction. It has to move forward.”


Cem Melikoğlu touched upon the risks of autonomous ships:

“The autonomous ship is a great idea, but there are so many unpredictable conditions at sea. Errors can happen, there are accidents, there are pirates. It will take some time for us to switch to an unmanned fully autonomous system. In the short term, systems have become more self-controlled, but fully autonomous will take some time. We need to make use of technology as much as possible. This is already one of the biggest questions if autonomous ships come into play. One of the problems brought by digital transformation in maritime is which maritime accident will be responsible for which one and how. If this system is to be introduced, it is necessary to know who will be responsible in which cases. I approach it as an engineer. While sailing, a ship passes over a smaller cruise ship. Here, it is necessary to examine whether it is a software error or a material error. If there is an error in the software, they go after it, if there is a fault in the sensor, you go after the person who made it. That removes more water.”

Industry officials also underlined the need to establish legal infrastructures for autonomous ships.


Havelsan General Manager Dr. Mehmet Akif Nacar stated that Havelsan, which has signed important projects in the defense industry, has taken action to transfer its experience in different fields to the maritime sector, and emphasized that the Turkish Straits Ship Traffic Services System Upgrade Project and its localization have come to an important point. Nacar said that the project is planned to be put into service this year. He also said that there are Coast Guard Surveillance Radar System projects. Thanks to the project, it is aimed to create a sea picture of all Turkish territorial waters, to detect the traffic passing there, and to use all of these in a command and control sense integrated with the systems of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure. In this way, it is aimed to prevent human smuggling and illegal crossings. Havelsan will work on digital data and data communication infrastructures, especially within the scope of the e-navigation project. Havelsan carries out projects that develop various measures against cyber risks.


Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sanmar, one of the giants of the tugboat, Ali Gurun, said that at the summit, Turkey dethroned world leaders in special purpose shipbuilding.

Ali Gürün said, “Turkey has even wiped out Spain and the Netherlands, which were once the world leaders in tugboat construction, from the market. “Let’s sell the cress to the cress, we became the cress itself,” he said.

Emphasizing that Turkey has become the production base of Europe and the Middle East for special purpose ships, Gürün said, “Turkey, which also has the advantage of freight, has reached an important point in high value-added technological and environmental shipbuilding, especially in the last 10 years. I think we should not aim to build very strong, very large ships. Because the high technology and small size of the ships we build means that they are built quickly, have high added value and are built in a more environmentally friendly way. Referring to the problems in the sector, Gürün said, “We have difficulties in finding mid-level technicians. The issue of letter of guarantee in exports continues,” he said.


The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of News2Sea.

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