Gemak Ship Repair Marketing Manager Barkın Sunay: Quality-conscious customers prefer us

Yeşim Yeliz Egeli

We had a conversation with Barkın Sunay about the current production status, technical investments and future projects of Gemak Shipyard, which has stood out among the shipyards in Türkiye and the Mediterranean basin for 55 years thanks to its engineering investments and the importance it attaches to technical infrastructure,.

Could you introduce yourself to our readers? 

V. Barkın Sunay: I graduated from Yıldız Technical University in 1996. After working in different shipyards for a short part of my 28 years of working life following graduation, I devoted almost all of my professional life to Gemak Shipyards. Starting as a field engineer, I have worked in almost all positions, including Project Manager, Planning Manager, Shipyard General Manager; in all 3 shipyards.

I have been working as a marketing manager from 2020. Gemak is a very large shipyard with more than 900 employees, of which more than 250 are engineers. It is one of the highest number of engineers within Turkish Shipyards. Since the founders of the company and the members of the board of directors are also engineers, we have a large staff on the engineering side. I have never thought of working in another shipyard because we have a very organized system of working together and a corporate shipyard which is an exception.

Could you tell us about your current business diversity and construction projects? 

Since the 3rd Bosphorus Bridge, where Gemak is also the contractor, there is a new division called Industrial Division that manages shipbuilding, offshore and green energy project  structures. The department I manage is responsible for ship maintenance, repair, and retrofit projects. We do a lot of work on both sides these days, so we are very busy.

In 2022 and 2023, there was an incredible amount of intensity in all the shipyards because China was closed during the pandemic and stayed closed even longer than other countries. In terms of work intensity, we broke record after record. It was a slightly different process for us as Gemak. 

There was no increase in ship maintenance by means of vessel quantity as we worked more intensively on the modification and retrofit side during these years which stayed longer than ordinary repair projects. Although the number of ships remained the same, we received large projects. Because we received larger and therefore longer projects, we had to turn down maintenance projects. In terms of revenue, we had record years for us. However, when China opened up towards the end of 2023, they started to attract a very serious number of customers because of the competitive environment that was created between the shipyards in the country due to the gap that had existed for years. That is why shipowners started to turn to China intensively. In this period, there was a 3-4 month business decline. Even though it coincided with a time of mandatory price increase, we returned to 2021-2022 levels.  

İlginizi çekebilir:

Gemak Gemi Tamir Pazarlama Müdürü Barkın Sunay: Kaliteye önem veren müşteriler bizi tercih ediyor

Barkın Sunay Gemak

What makes Gemak stand out in terms of the projects you carry out? 

On a country basis, there are several regions. In the Far East, all Pacific vessels go to China. We would like to be able to service ships going through the Mediterranean, to the Black Sea, and even to East America. European customers do not prefer to go to China for several reasons. European, especially our neighbors, Greek shipowners prefer us because we are close in terms of culture and location. Customers who are looking for quality also prefer Turkish Shipyards. “We are coming to Türkiye to get a better overall quality of work done,” is what they say. The Europeans and Japanese stand out in this respect. We are equipped both as a shipyard and as a sub-industry. We take advantage of the fact that we have been doing repairs in Tuzla for 40 years. We can service 12-14 ships at the same time. In terms of ship diversity, we can repair and maintain all types of ships except cruise ships. Recently, we  started to repair and maintain LNG vessels,  and the inquiries that we receive for these vessel types increase day by day.

Gemak is the main hub in Türkiye for the repair, maintenance and drydocking of dredger vessels. The reason  for that is such advanced vessels with large equipment need “know-how” more. It is one thing to do this kind of work for the first time, it is another thing to have seen it before and to have done it because even the terminology of these ships is different. The companies that own such vessels are mostly from Benelux. The ship management system of these ships are also different, they work project-oriented. They have dry-docking depending on these projects. For example, when a port is to be built, more than one ship can undergo maintenance simultaneously. Although I am not very knowledgeable about domestic sub-industry production, we can find solutions with domestic production even in the most specific issues. We have no difficulties in this regard.

What investments are you making in new-generation technologies, ERP systems and the use of artificial intelligence in production? 

Gemak is by far the leader in this field. We have been laying the foundation of ERP in our shipyards since 1999. We use our own ERP software that we developed with our own software team following the vision of our founder Mr. İsmet Üner.  Microsoft Access is the platform on which we started the ERP foundation and we improved it with new software implementations. Since we have adapted this software to our own way of doing business, our program is also special to us. All our projects are active in this program and when we receive an order, we carry out the process in the smoothest way with this ERP program that contains all our information. For example, we always give customers the right date with the use of our ERP system so we never keep their ships waiting at anchorage to enter the Yard., We also keep their budgets update. Invoices are also checked and approved from ERP because the whole system is connected. All departments are integrated with more then 600 di Europeansscreens. About 10 years ago we also started to use SAP and we run it integrated with our own system called SAMS. We are trying to be more active in artificial intelligence. It is a new technology and we are still researching how much we can integrate it into our business.

Could you also give us some information about the figures? 

Even in such a busy time, we did not keep any ships waiting. We have undertaken very large projects. We have carried out projects that are the first in Türkiye. We are the leader in the Mediterranean region in the installation of scrubbers. We have installed 66 scrubbers and ballast water treatment systems on more than 200 ships. 

We frequently attend seminars and events and follow energy efficiency projects as the marketing department. We are in contact with manufacturers and have even made offers to some of them to produce new generation systems such as wind sails in our shipyard. In October this year, we will assemble a sailing project for the first time in Turkiye.

For the first time in Turkiye, we installed carbon capture systems on two ships, and we installed “Air lubrication” on three different ships. These are also projects implemented for the first time in Turkiye. We have also replaced propellers and installed “energy saving ducts” and “rudder bulbs”, which we manufactured in our shipyard, on various ships.

Could you evaluate the continuity of your cooperation with your customers? 

Gemak is a 55-year-old company. Therefore, we are a shipyard where many people know about us. In addition, there are companies that only work with Gemak. There are European, Singaporean, and Japanese companies that do not even get offers from elsewhere. Of course, our relations with these clients are at a different level, and they have priority.

Are there any firsts and bests realized by Gemak? 

We are the first shipyard in Türkiye and Europe to apply silicone paint, which has become very popular in recent years. We are the first shipyard in the sector to perform ship lengthening with the “skidding system” and with the equipment we designed and patented in our R&D center which is the first one approved by the Ministry beyond shipyards. We have lengthened 4 ships of DFDS with this system and unlike similar ones, with this 6-axis equipment, we have completed the cutting and sliding of 5,400 tons of block and the assembly of 1,300 tons of block between two slices in a remarkable period of 18 hours.

We did bulb retrofits. These are bulbs of 90-130 tons and we have completed 10 projects in the last two years. We have carried out all these projects completely with our own resources.

We have completed nearly 3,000 maintenance and repair projects, which is the highest number in the sector as far as I know. We also have the largest dry dock in Türkiye. One of the reasons why dredger ships prefer us is this drydock. In this dock, we can reach up to 570 tons of  lifting capacity  which is an advantage for conversion, major repair and retrofit projects. 

We treat  the ship washing water from our floating docks in our purification facility and then discharge it into the sea without causing harm to nature. We are currently constructing a 2,000 square meter solar power plant that will provide %100 percent of our shipyard’s electricity need. We aim for high efficiency and low maintenance costs by differentiating this investment and establishing a facility in Anatolia instead of lying in the shipyard. Currently, we are also using %100 renewable energy companies for all our energy supply.

On the industrial side, for example, we manufacture transformer platforms for offshore wind turbines. We are currently producing an unmanned offshore fish farm that will be fully automated and inhabited by 2 million salmons. We also make barges for wind turbines which is another green energy production. Simultaneously, we are manufacturing a floating dock for a US company.

Do you work with foreign brokers? 

Yes, the strategy depends on the country. We have brooker agreements worldwide, some exclusive in some countries and some non-exclusive in others, depending on the working principles of the shipowners.

Do you have anything to add about the future of shipbuilding? 

Although I have no experience in new buildings, the impression I got from the seminars and shipowner meetings I attended is that a new wave of new buildings is coming. The occupancy in China has increased and hopefully, we expect a similar intensity in Türkiye in the near future.

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