Cem Hüroğlu: We had a very fast 2 years

Yeşim Yeliz Egeli

Fotoğraflar: Ekrem Şerif Egeli

We had an interview with Cem Hüroğlu, about the company’s development, future projects and the important role they play in the defense industry

First of all, how was your year 2023? 

2023 gone like the wind for us as it was for the whole sector. It was a very busy year, the workload was quite high. It is possible to say that this was already evident in previous years, the acceleration that started after the pandemic peaked in 2023. Although we are a little tired, we are happy about this, and we are trying to keep our company strong by making the necessary developments where needed while working intensly. 

The sector caught a break during the pandemic period. How did you meet this intensity? In terms of personnel, infrastructure, systemic requirements…

As you said, everything has changed a lot after 2021. We are a company that has been working with ERP enterprise resource planning software for many years. We work through this program at many stages from the first offer to the order of the product. 

We use planned program in our stocks and in production. This abnormal change after 2021 also disrupted our program. There was a supply shortage in the world, which inevitably led us to work more stocked and more intensively. The team started to work faster, we expanded our machine park, the number of subcontractors we work with increased, and on the other hand, we improved our 

Cem Hüroğlu We had a very fast 2 years

Obviously, we have developed our company in a lot way. The team is constantly growing, we have outgrown our current location, we have made some changes within the company and we have reached today… It has been a very fast 2 years. Even though we tried to take precautions, there were places where we could not keep up, but we are trying to improve ourselves. We are a well-known brand in Turkiye and we aim to become a well-known brand globally in line with our goals. 

Speaking of abroad, you have made important business agreements. Could you tell us about your investments abroad? 

We receive good deals from abroad. Currently, we allocate approximately 45 to 47 percent of our production to direct exports. We ship equipment mainly for work boats and yachts abroad. We have recently entered into big projects, especially in the yacht sector. One example of a very prestigious project is the one with Damen. We started working on Damen Yachting’s 60 and 80 meter Limited Edition series. We received 10 orders for 60 meter yachts and 5 orders for 80 meter yachts…

For Damen’s Antalya Shipyard? 

No, Netherlands.

We received the order for San Lorenzo’s 53-meter yacht from Italy for the first time this April, and now we are continuing to negotiate an order for 60 meters. 

Apart from that, there are projects from France and Greece that we are following and negotiating. We work with a dealership system. We currently have dealerships in 21 countries around the world. In countries where we do not have a representative, we work with shipyards or certain companies on a project basis. As an organization, we have our own service team. This team deals with international and domestic services. Apart from this, there are contracted companies abroad that provide services for our products. 

Cem Hüroğlu We had a very fast 2 years

So what will be the effect of your new orders on the intensity of your schedule and how long will the productions last? 

We have already completed 2024 in our order list. I can say that we are almost in the middle of 2025. In these large projects, delivery times vary between 8 and 12 months. For 2025, we have started to fill the remaining gaps. Apart from these, we also have gaps reserved for orders of a certain smaller size. 

We reserve a separate line for smaller projects. We currently have a staff of 120 people, but we are constantly growing. We are constantly renewing. On the other hand, ERP also benefits us a lot. By combining all these in one pot, we are trying to produce a quality, fast and smooth production and after sales.

As far as I understand, you also care about the use of artificial intelligence based systems. As an engineer, how do you evaluate the use of these systems? What would you like to say about the development of artificial intelligence in the maritime sector?

ERP and artificial intelligence are different things when compared. We have been using ERP since 2006. Since 2012, all departments started to use this software and it has been very beneficial for us. On the other hand, artificial intelligence is a concept that has been talked about a lot recently. Although it has not been mentioned much in our sector -at least as far as I know- I am sure we will hear more about it in the near future.

In addition, computer-aided manufacturing is increasing. Work is being done towards more automation, and the priority is to reduce costs. As a company, we are trying to do something in our own way for automation.

Cem Hüroğlu We had a very fast 2 years

So where has the local production rate in your productions reached? 

We are a company that cares a lot about domestic goods. We try to use domestic goods as much as possible. We produce in many segments, including yachts, tugboats, military vessels, even rope windlasses. Although the ratio varies from product to product, while there is a local content share of around 70 percent where it is the lowest, it can go up to 95 percent or even higher according to this system. We try to keep this ratio as high as possible. 

Is there a difference in quality between your local productions and those of global companies? 

We always prefer local goods, and another “sine qua non” is quality. We use products that have proven themselves. 

Are local products better when you compare? 

We do not encounter any negativity. We try to choose the right product as much as possible.

Is your production in line with IMO’s 2050 utilization targets? Are you able to produce in accordance with different green shipping engineering products? 

There is no change for our side in both the requests of class organizations and customer demands. But of course, we have had some special studies on environmental issues that have been talked about recently. These were made upon requests from the user. There are points such as systems being more economical and working more efficiently. We supplied the rudder systems of the yachts built in Germany. Here we manufactured a rudder system similar to those in cars (with start-stop system) to be more environmental. They are currently working without any problems. 

Cem Hüroğlu We had a very fast 2 years

Which European countries do you mainly work with? Do you have a ranking? 

We work with all countries in Europe. But mainly the Netherlands and France are in the first place, followed by Germany, then Italy, Greece, Poland, Spain, England, etc. We have included East Asian countries in our portfolio. We work with companies in various places such as China, Indonesia, Maldives, Singapore, Dubai, North Africa.

Can you be competitive like in an environment like this? 

We are competitive in an interesting way. We present ourselves as a quality product, not a cheap one. In some big projects, some people have stated that they prefer us because we are not cheap but high quality. We entered the Croatian market 7-8 years ago. 80 percent of the yachts built in Croatia use our equipment, even though there are local brands. These, of course, make us happy and enthusiastic. The vessels we supply are not cars, you cannot pull over and call a taxi when they break down. The load of a ship is too much and a ship can be found anywhere in the world. You can not use a short cut when building a ship.

Do you have the possibility to expand? 

We actually think differently from the traditional structure. We have a certain machine park, a ceratin production capacity. We think about how to grow faster, how do we grow faster when we do a job? We grow faster by outsourcing. How can we not reduce quality while outsourcing? Obviously, we are working on all of these. We are structured in this way. 

In order to grow more elastic as much as possible, we care about outsourced services, we work with a significant number of subcontractors and we make an effort to strictly control them because we want to make more niche manufacturing. For this reason, we want to be a company that grows faster by outsourcing and shrinks faster when necessary, that is, we want to be a company that adapts faster to the conditions of the day. So far, this strategy has gone smoothly. 

Cem Hüroğlu We had a very fast 2 years

We wanted to have a chance, and when we have a chance, we have always used it very well. Our local companies have given us a lot of chances, and we have never let them down. When you put all these things together, success in abroad comes. We have always tried to keep our relations with our customers at good.

Our new motto is to be sustainable

You are now the 3rd generation, right? 

Yes, my grandfather is the one who founded the business, but my father and uncle founded the original company under the name Data Hidrolik.

Is the 4th generation being prepared? 

Yes, they are all studying at the receiving their university education right now. 

Did you have any guidance in their education choices? 

Of course, we have a family constitution that we all signed and within certain rules there, we guide our children’s education.

At the same time, you have many activities within the scope of social responsibility, you are also a manager in NGOs, but you don’t talk about them much. Would you like to talk about them right now? 

I am a member of the board of directors of the Ship Yacht and Services Exporters’ Association and vice president of YATED. There are also social responsibility projects that we carry out as a company. We don’t publicize them much, but we try to take part in meeting the demands of universities and NGOs. 

I can say that YATED has changed its shell in recent years. I have been in different positions in the management for about 12 years and this year I am the vice president. We are the locomotive of the sector and we are constantly trying to represent the sector both in Turkiye and in abroad. 

Cem Hüroğlu We had a very fast 2 years

We are in contact with our ministries, we provide the necessary information. We constantly meet with our members and try to eliminate the problems in the functioning by also getting information from non-member companies. Apart from this, of course, we have social responsibility activities.

For example, during the February 6 Kahramanmaraş earthquake, we helped the maritime class at İskenderun Sefa Atakaş Technical Anatolian High School. They received the necessary training to produce boats and their molds were renewed by Murat Telgeren. We hosted the teachers and students here and they were informed about boat manufacturing. 

Because the sea is where we “all eat our bread from” we need to take good care of it. TURMEPA is doing its best for this. We thought about “what we can do” in our own way, so we decided to manufacture a boat for them. We are manufacturing a boat in Bodrum and it will be launched in about a month. 

We are also in constant communication with state institutions. One of the problems of our country is the mooring problem. Mooring areas need to increase. Since there is a lack of mooring facilities, boats pollute the sea.  Ankara is helping us in this regard and we are working to find a solution to this problem.

Cem Hüroğlu We had a very fast 2 years

What exactly are your hiring criteria here so that young people can hear it?

We try to host students in our company,we host them as interns, that is, to support them. Of course, each company has its own characteristics. This can be success on the education side of the business or on the kitchen side. Apart from that, I know many universities or maritime high schools and we have a budget allocated for them. We try to help all of them at certain rates.

YATED now organizes its own boat show. Could you tell us a little bit about it? 

As you said before, our sector has always held fairs with organizers and we have experienced many negativities so now we are organizing the fair ourself.

Could you tell us what kind of negativities you have experienced? 

First of all, financial negativities, especially the negativities reflected on the exhibitors, and then I can say the negativities experienced in the conditions of the fairground, for example, there have been problems for years about the transportation of boats to and from the fairground. Until today, our members said to us, “Wouldn’t it be better if we organize this fair”, so we established a company called YATED Fair. We are currently organizing this event. As an association, we have a land fair in February and a sea fair in October. We received very important and positive feedback.

İlginizi çekebilir:

‘En büyük hedefimiz: Her zaman daha iyisini yapmak’

Cem Hüroğlu

Some boats’ dirty water goes directly into the sea? Wouldn’t it be better to take a joint decision on this issue? What do you think as an engineer? Would there be a change in the draft law for this? 

You have put your finger on a good point.  There is an authorized organization that decides on this issue, actually it is called European Boating Industry. We are a member here as an association. We get information about the developments there, and we are members to contribute to the decision-making process. Therefore, this issue is very important. I know that many users here have additional tanks built on their own boats. 

We have heard that these tanks will be brought as standard in these mass production boats in the new decisions to be taken in the near future, but of course we cannot give an exact date. For myself, I have an additional tank on my own boat. 

The dangerous thing is that the kitchen sink water goes directly into the sea, of course, because it mixes chemicals. There should be a consensus here. 

There are international organizations here, as I said. We aim to have an idea about  decisions contribute to them.

Cem Hüroğlu We had a very fast 2 years

Which projects are you involved in the defense industry? 

We have a long history; we are a company founded in 1979, and we are involved in yachts, work boats, ships, tugboats and military vessels built in Turkiye in recent years. We address 95 percent of the yacht market in Turkiye, and the same is true for military vessels. In military projects, starting in the 80s, we took part in projects such as coast guard boats and military personnel transportation boats built at Gölcük Shipyard. Of course, this continued for many years, and now MİLGEM has become a very important milestone in this business. If I remember correctly, we went to a meeting for the first MİLGEM project in 2007. Of course, we were like fish out of water.

They wanted a rudder system, and there were a few other companies there with us, none of them were rudder system manufacturers, maybe they were companies that had made hydraulic cylinders. “When I look back, we built more than 50 ships for the Turkish Naval Forces. What are these ships? We were involved in MİLGEMs, SGAKs, Patrol Boats, YTKBs, LCTs, LJTs, LSTs, RATSHIP, MOSHIP projects, and many other projects that I can’t think of right now. We did many things for special purposes that you can think of. As for military projects abroad, we were involved in projects in Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Ukraine, Taiwan, Nigeria and projects in Qatar and Bahrain.

In addition to these, we continue to work on how we can increase localization. The Turkish Naval Forces are also very supportive for us, and they tell us that they are very pleased to work with us, and of course we are very pleased to work with them. We will be designing and manufacturing the gas turbine hydraulic start systems in MİLGEM projects 6-7-8, and this will be the first time this will be done. Now we are talking about projects 9 and 12. We are involved in all of them.

How are you doing on the submarine side? 

We are currently on the sea not under it.(smiles) 

I think you were asked to do a study on this subject. 

That is a very different case, the product requested has very different specifications. It required a very serious work, but we have not reached that point yet. For this reason, we are now interested in offshore projects. 

What steps can the representatives of the two countries, both in NGOs and companies, take to improve Turkish-Greek maritime relations? Although Greek shipyards mostly prefer Türkiye for maintenance and repair, how can relations here be improved? 

As you said, we have a long-standing friendship with Greece. The ships in their fleet are generally above the lengths/tonnage we manufacture. For this reason, they prefer us more on the maintenance and repair side. There are many reasons for this, first of all, the location is very close. We have a lot of experience and quality work is being done in our country. DTO and GISBİR are very active in relations with Greece. They keep the relations very warm. Bilateral meetings are held, of course, there may be different balances apart from this. Everything can change very fast in today’s world. On behalf of the sector, we are trying to provide the best service to the Greek Fleet, especially maintenance and repair, under the best possible conditions.

Are there any developing countries that would like to benefit from our experience? Are there delegations from these countries visiting our country? 

Of course there are, DTO hosts foreign delegations here, sometimes they themselves go and meet, we can say that DTO has assumed this role in the promotion of the sector for Türkiye.

I am especially curious about Africa, it is a very large and very virgin market, do you have inputs in this sense? 

Although there are demands coming to us from there, there is no regular business relationship. The reason for this is the lack of regular construction, but I think this will continue to increase in the coming years.In the bilateral conversations 

I have heard that people in these regions have a love for Türkiye and that they have serious trust in the Turkish Armed Forces. What do you think about this? 

Of course, of course, this is true. There is definitely love and trust. 

How does the fact that our shipbuilding industry cannot benefit from the strong financing sources required for international competition due to embargoes and restrictions affect export rates?

What advice can you give as a business person? This issue is beyond us as a sector. There are decisions taken by governments and we have to comply with these decisions. We have to act according to the mutual agreements of the countries.

So are you also present in Africa and North Africa? 

We are. If you ask me, Europe and Arab countries are the most active markets. Mainly yachts and workboats. 

Is the production of workboats predominantly in the Baltic countries? 

The Netherlands, France and Germany are predominant. I can also say that there are also Northern Countries like Estonia. Since we work with Damen Shipyards, I can say that we work with shipyards all over the world. The Far East is also active. There are very active projects especially in Taiwan and Vietnam. 

Cem Hüroğlu We had a very fast 2 years

Could you give an example of the projects you have taken in 2024, if possible? 

I can give an example. Yacht equipment is our initial production. The domestic projects we received in 2024 are the apple of our eye, but Damen Shipyard’s 80-meter yacht project was a good start for us. We are working with all of the big yacht building shipyards in Turkiye and all of them make us happy.

We face unexpected climatic conditions due to climate change. In this regard, your products actually play the role of a savior in a sense. What can you say about your impact on this issue and the spiritual dimension of the work? Are there any interesting stories? 

I can say that there are interesting demands. Recently, with the increase in the number of projects working in polar regions, designs that will work in harsher weather conditions have been requested in certain product groups. We are making improvements in our designs accordingly. 

Off-shore platforms, wind turbines, offshore wind farms are slowly developing in Türkiye, have you sold to companies working in this direction? 

Yes, up to a certain extent. We have a certain manufacturing capacity as Data Hidrolik. As long as it is within this capacity, of course we produce. We go up to certain lengths by considering all our possibilities. We are trying to make the best product possible in our current portfolio.

You express your opinion in making certain decisions on behalf of the sector. Qualified personnel are necessary for companies like yours to sustain their business. Do you have expectations in this regard? Would you like to say something about the need to revitalize vocational high schools? 

What can you say about the establishment of a specialized bank that can serve the sector? 

The issue of qualified personnel is a big problem for our sector. Although companies sign long-term agreements with high schools and universities, this is unfortunately not enough. Vocational high schools and universities need to increase their branches in this field. There are many universities offering engineering education, but the number of vocational high schools should also increase. 

I was at a meeting in Antalya last week and believe me, this was discussed and we even hear similar things from our European colleagues. Of course, this can be prevented by a change in the education system, but this is a long-term process, we are trying to structure it by having various trainings on our behalf and certifying our employees, but this education should come from high school, the policy of the state is important, this issue should be given importance. Countries have credit scores. 

We are also talking about these issues on the side of the exporters’ association, and no matter how positive the talks are, it is not easy and fast to reflect this on the field, and unfortunately this seems to be a course that will take some time. In order for large projects to come to Türkiye, we need a higher credit score.

Loan collateral is a big problem for shipyards. Countries have credit scores. On the exporters’ association side, we open these issues and talk about them, and no matter how positive the talks are, it is not easy and fast to reflect this on the field, and unfortunately this seems to be a course that will take some time. Credit is needed for big projects to come to Türkiye. Although support is provided for export projects abroad, unfortunately it is not enough as the cash needs of our sector are very large…

Do you have a last message for our readers? 

May your 200th issue be auspicious and let’s hope for many more issues…

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