|Indonesian shipyard welders pose with Samsung Heavy Industries employees at Incheon International Airport after their arrival in Korea in this December 2022 file photo. Courtesy of Samsung Heavy Industries
Over 2,000 foreign workers to be deployed at shipyards this month
By Park Jae-hyuk
The government has decided recently to drop the requirement for foreign welders to have at least two years of work experience to qualify for jobs at shipyards in Korea, according to the Korea Offshore & Shipbuilding Association (KOSHIPA), Sunday.
Late last month, the Ministry of Justice informed the association that the requirements for E-7 visas will be temporarily eased until January 2025 for foreign shipyard employees.
In particular, foreign welders will be exempt from submitting employment certificates, if passing skills verification tests at agencies designated by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and if they have earned certifications in flux cored arc welding (FCAW), gas metal arc welding (GMAW) and gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW).
The government's decision came as domestic shipbuilders and their subcontractors have continuously struggled with labor shortages.
Data compiled by the KOSHIPA showed that the combined size of orders for Korean shipbuilders reached 1.56 million compensated gross tonnage (CGT) last year. Around 37 percent of the total global shipbuilding orders.
However, the chronic workforce shortage has made uncertain the ability of shipbuilders to supply their customers with vessels by contract deadlines.
As of October last year, the number of workers at medium- and large-size shipyards here stood at 95,000, fewer than half of the number of workers in late 2014. KOSHIPA expects the nation's shipbuilding industry will need an additional 14,000 blue-collar workers by the end of this year.
Thus the government announced earlier this year that it would shorten the administrative procedures for foreign visa workers employed by domestic shipbuilders to one month from four months.
The government also pulled up the ratio of foreign nationals allowed among the total number of their full-time domestic workforce to 30 percent from the previous cap of 20 percent.
In addition, international students who studied shipbuilding at domestic universities have been exempted from verification of practical skills when applying for an E-7-3 visa, which is issued for general skilled workers such as welders, painters and electricians.
Under such measures, the government announced on Sunday that more than 2,000 foreign nationals will be deployed at domestic shipyards by the end of this month.
"By the end of last month, the trade ministry completed asking for the issuance of 2,257 E-7 visas and the justice ministry finished screening 1,798 applicants," a trade ministry official said. "In January, the government also completed screening 1,047 applicants for E-9 visa, which was given to non-professional workers in the shipbuilding industry."