SETTING A NEW COURSE

Turkey 2020 | SHIPBUILDING | INTERVIEW

ARES Shipyard today is the largest builder of advanced-composite and aluminum naval and working vessels in Europe, with highly advanced production facilities and success in system engineering.

Kerim Kalafatoğlu
BIOGRAPHY

Following a degree in econometrics, Kerim Kalafatoğlu completed a master's degree in international economics at the University of Essex in the UK. He started his professional business career in early 1994 at the Trabzon Free Zone as the founder of a foreign trade and shipping company. He later founded Ares Shipyard in 2006, where he is currently the chairman. Under his guidance, the company has won awards such as Turkey's Fastest Growing Company, 2012-2016, and Largest Ship Exporter in the history of Turkey – 2017. Kalafatoğlu completed the distinctive Owner/President Management Program by Harvard Business School.

What is the most important factor behind ARES Shipyard's success?
In fact, I would say all of them, as a vessel that meets the requirements can be developed only when all of these components are brought together in harmony. For this reason, we are ambitious in all of these areas; but if pressed to explain briefly about all four factors, I would start with production. In 2018, we delivered 11 vessels in only 12 months, and this is in itself a record for Turkey, but we can go further and state we are Europe's largest manufacturer of composite hull vessels. When it comes to design, we are as ambitious in this area as we are in production, such that the point that we have achieved in design takes us a few steps ahead of our competitors and increases our sales capabilities dramatically. Our success in system engineering, on the other hand, is exemplified by our integration capabilities. Finally, we owe this harmony to our young, dynamic and energetic cadre.

You said that you are Europe's largest manufacturer of composite hull vessels. Can you elaborate on this?
ARES Shipyard invests most of its revenues into new facilities, investments, and infrastructure, and this allows us build three or four different vessels at a time and to manage these processes in such a way that they are not affected by each other. Of the 11 vessels we are able to deliver a year, most are in the 35-m and 48-m class, but we should not only talk about physical magnitude, as we also need to underline our technologies, quality, and speed of production. We are the only company in the world that builds composite hull military ships with epoxy resin and vacuum infusion technologies. We achieve all of this without compromising on quality; in addition, none of the vessels we have delivered to date have ever been returned to us.

You have experienced rapid growth since the establishment of ARES Shipyard in 2006. Would you tell us the story behind this growth?
We first started production in late 2006 on a 700-sqm production area that we had leased from Siemens in the Antalya Free Zone. In 2008, we completed construction and commissioned our first 3,000sqm facility. After producing vessels for a French company on contract basis for a while, we realized we had to specialize in this field and turned our attention to two main branches, namely commercial and military projects. The economic crisis of 2008 hit the shipbuilding sector badly, and the sector has still not managed to recover. But we did not give up and found new businesses to undertake. Moreover, we did not lend any money to achieve this growth; we have been growing in a healthy way, making use of our own resources, ultimately becoming a globally well-known company that relies on its own capabilities and marketing strategy.

How about your growth in terms of investments?
Our most important ongoing investment is the new building we are adding to our facilities. The building will permit the construction of vessels of up to 90m in length. Our intention is to make use of this building initially for an offshore patrol vessel and a fast attack craft program if we are awarded with the contracts. Our existing facilities allow us to construct such boats, though with our new investment we will be able to increase production and offer higher quality products. I hope we will soon be offering to the market a number of new boats on the strength of this new facility, working with such partners as thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, BMT, and Rolls-Royce. We have also expanded our furniture factory, where we are operating with increased capacity and producing more different furniture styles. To accommodate all these additional works, the area of our facility has been increased from 26,000sqm to 40,000sqm.