Hull cares about its products and its customers
Mr Kazuki Otsuka, the MD of Hull Co., Ltd, tells us he is very excited about the new Yanmar engines he will be introducing to the Thai market this year. Yanmar, whose main office is in Osaka, has been supplying high-speed commercial diesel engines to the marine business in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. for a long time. But the company did not have much success promoting its products in Thailand, so HULL seized on the opportunity to do so. But why was Yanmar unable to get a foothold in the marine business here earlier? Mr Otsuka says that many of the fishing boats in Thailand use modified truck engines, which are illegal to use in many other countries. So he chose to focus on the leisure marine industry. The most popular Yanmar engine for sailboats is the JH, which has an Electronic Control Injection System; HULL will also be bringing these engines into Thailand later this year. Mr Otsuak says that in Thailand approximately 70% of the boatbuilders (non fishing boats) use Yanmar engines (pleasure, LD-Commercial) and many boats imported into Thailand already have Yanmar engines installed.
HULL is also a distributor for Seastar Solutions (formerly TELEFIX Marine); one of their new innovative products that HULL will be introducing to Thailand later this year is the Optimus 360, a joystick system providing 360-degree manoeuvrability for outboard motors.
HULL is also promoting new models of Suzuki outboards particularly the 30hp coming to the market in August, and another 60hp Bigfoot due in April.
Hull is a decade old now and has branches in Pattaya, Samui & Phuket handling retail sales and service (with the Phuket service area stretching from Satun to Krabi & Phang Nga); most of the business goes to the government sector and as an OEM supplier to boatbuilders. The company also has a small dealership in Minburi, and hopes to open another small dealership in Koh Chang (covering Koh Mak, Ko Kut and Sihanoukville) next year as well.
Mr Otsuka is a strong proponent of increasing boat and product safety in Thailand, feeling that there should be tighter regulations enforced from the government side and that those working in the boating industry should be much more safety-conscious about the products they deliver and operate. We will discuss this further with Mr Otsuka in an upcoming article in SEA Yachting. In the here and now, please see more excerpts from our recent interview with Mr Otsuka, which took place at his office in Ocean Marina.
Please tell us a little about yourself: where you are from, where you grew up, what you studied and how you ended up in the leisure marine industry.
I was born in Tokyo in 1950, and I grew up there, studying to get my Bachelor's Degree in Electronic Engineering in Japan. As a child I loved cars, motorcycles and airplanes—anything that moved fast. I also was fascinated by snorkelling and the sea, the TV programmes of Jacques Cousteau had a big impact on me as did American programmes featuring scuba-diving in Florida. I learned to scuba dive in the early 70s, and in the late 70s I took up Jet skiing as well as motorcycling, water-skiing, camping and participating in car rallies. I first came to Thailand in 1987 for a short stay to help my friend who was working on his own boat project here. Pattaya is where I call home today.
How long as Hull been going and why did you decide to set up your operations base in Pattaya (Ocean Marina)?
I started living Thailand in 1992 when I started a small project in a joint-venture with Mr. Paiboon Bencharit, the owner of SEAT Boat. I established HULL in August of 2004 after working with SEAT Boat for 12 years as the general manager of its design section.
How long have you been the dealer in Thailand for Yanmar?
We received the distributorship for Yanmar Pleasure Marine engines in October 2004; before that Yanmar did not have a distributor here, thus we had to start from scratch.
As Managing Director of your company, please outline for us your responsibilities.
I strive to be as the best possible MD I can, looking after all of my staff, ensuring they have a healthy and productive work environment.
Please tell us about your company's product line, hi-lighting your most sought after items.
We sell Yanmar Marine engines for pleasure and high-speed commercial marine use as well as Suzuki outboard motors, Seastar Solutions Marine products (formerly Teleflex Marine) and Sika Marine Products.
What do you think gives your company a competitive edge in the marketplace?
HULL handles only specialized marine products used by boat builders and commercial boat operators. We provide the right the engine and equipment as well as engine management/maintenance to ensure a smoothrunning commercial operation.
How do you see the future of the leisure marine business in Thailand?
For personal use, boats are still very expensive for the average Thai. Once the standard of living becomes similar to that in developed countries you will see more boat owners here.
Is there anything the Thai government can do to boost the leisure marine business here?
If the government changes the law for financing (hire-purchase does not work for boats right now) boats could be as easy to purchase as cars are today, but it will take him to grow the leisure marine business. However, boats are not a necessity for daily life like cars and your average family has limited amounts of money to spend on "pleasure" items.
Are Hull's products as environmentally-friendly as they can be?
All products HULL handles are manufactured following strict international marine emission controls (IMO/CE).
What was it like to work with Aus-Thai Marine's Ray Ringuet and Albatross Marine's Albert Nazarov on the recent catamaran project?
HULL was the engine & equipment supplier, Austhai was the boat builder and Albatross Marine Design was the designer. We combined and built a catamaran raising the standards for commercial operators in Thailand as we only used international boat standards, including international safety emission controls, which will save fuel and increase safety for passenger ferries as well as dive and crew boats. As of now, most commercially-operated boats in Thailand lag far behind international operating and safety standards.
Yanmar has a global workforce of over 15,000 and a sales network operating in more than 130 countries. Yanmar designs and manufactures diesel engines, accessories and finishing equipment for a wide range of applications in pleasure craft and commercial marine vessels, for industrial use, agricultural machinery, construction equipment and cogeneration power systems. The company has pioneered clean emissions technology and sustainable energy systems. In Europe, Yanmar employs around 600 people and generates annual sales of approximately Euro 800 million.