Inside the world's largest shipyard

Classic technology meets innovation at the Hyundai Heavy Industries ship building company in South Korea. Our colleagues at Click visited the site recently to take a look around.

Technology doesn’t get much bigger than this. South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan owns the largest shipyard on Earth. It’s where behemoths like the Globe were built – which was the world’s largest ship when it began its maiden voyage in December 2014.

Ships still transport 90% of the world’s trade. At HHI, to stay competitive, classic shipbuilding practices and 21st Century innovation meet. Large cranes with booms 180m (594ft) long loom over the shipyard, helping to shift thousands of tonnes of steel – but it is robots that weld the pieces together: they are simply faster and more accurate than human workers.

And in the HHI research and development labs, even the humble propeller is getting a technological makeover to boost its energy efficiency.

Propellers spin at such high speeds that the water in their wake loses pressure and vaporises to generate bubbles. When those bubbles collapse they create shock waves that can damage the blade. A tiny new turbine is in development that will sit on the tip of the standard eight-metre-tall (26ft) versions.

Computer simulations show that the currents the small turbine generates help prevent the larger turbine generating unwanted bubbles; an innovative add-on that could potentially mean energy savings for future ships on the high seas.

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