Captain Young Kim has been at the heart of IRI’s Seoul representation since before the Seoul office officially opened in 2007. He’s seen IRI’s presence in Korea expand from providing inspection support throughout the Korean Peninsula to a full-service flag State office.
“At first I was going to Seoul every three months to meet with Korean clients,” remembered Annie Ng, Head of Asia, IRI and Managing Director of the Vancouver Office. “Captain Kim and I were working closely together, recognizing that Korean owners and operators wanted local representation and service. When we opened the full-service office in 2007 with Captain Kim at the helm, we were able to offer what no other foreign flag could at that time; local decision making and excellent customer service in the local time zone and language.”
The commitment to serving Korean owners from Seoul resulted in the registration of 500 Korean owned vessels over the last 15 years, expanding the Seoul office to a team of six, and the company opening a second office in Korea, the Busan office, in 2017.
“Captain Kim has been a hero in Korea for the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) flag,” said Annie. “He has built a highly capable and successful team and helped RMI earn the trust and respect of the Korean maritime community.”
Captain Kim attributes the success of the RMI flag in Korea to strong personal relationships, built upon years of quality customer service and support.
“Although our owners may call any one of IRI’s 28 worldwide offices, they know our team here in Seoul, and they call us first. They know that we’re not only able to help them in local time but do so with the full support of our team and their connections across the world,” Captain Kim noted. “For example, if a vessel has difficulty in Australia, an owner or operator can call me directly, and I can connect with our inspectors and team in Australia, who have direct knowledge and relationships with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to find out what is happening on the ground. The whole network is built on strong relationships,” he continued.
Those relationships between stakeholders support Korean owners as they navigate ongoing regulatory changes.
“With a permanent representative at IMO and a full delegation, the RMI is able to serve as a bridge between owners/operators and regulators to make sure that the voices of owners and operators are heard as regulatory changes are being considered,” said Annie. “Owners/operators want their voice to be heard and considered before regulatory changes are implemented.”
Captain Kim notes that forthcoming regulatory requirements related to decarbonization require flag States to work closely with their owners/operators. Strong personal relationships, and a strong sense of working toward the same goal will be essential in the next several years.
“Our job as a flag is to ease the pressures for owners/operators as they work toward compliance,” Captain Kim said. “We provide high-quality technical support, involve ourselves in research and development projects, and offer collaboration and assistance to owners/operators as they evaluate new technologies and solutions. We are a true partner.”
Captain Kim and Annie see transparency as the key to IRI’s continued strength in the Korean market. “We do what we say we’re going to do, and we follow through. As a flag we opt to avoid bureaucratic red tape, positioning ourselves as a partner for safe vessel operations.”
“Our number one goal is always to provide the best flag service,” said Captain Kim. “Our owners/operators know that when they work with us, we have their best interests at heart,” he concluded.