Making waves: PPCJ speaks to Gladys Goh, first female President of Nippon Paint Marine and first foreign national to lead a Japanese principal company

08 March 2024

In celebration of International Women’s Day, PPCJ spoke to Gladys Goh, the recently appointed President of Nippon Paint Marine. With a history of more than 140 years, the company is the founding business of the mighty Nippon Paint Holdings Group and Goh is the first woman and the first foreign national to lead a principal operating company in Japan

Q. Congratulations on your promotion to President of Nippon Paint Marine! What will be your main points of focus as you start your new role?

A. There are five key areas that I’m focused on this year. Firstly, and aligned to meeting industry challenges: innovation and sustainability. Driving innovation, particularly the development of sustainable coatings and technologies is a big priority for us, including initiating further research and development initiatives that are aimed at reducing environmental impact whilst enhancing performance.

One of my primary objectives is also to expand Nippon Paint Marine’s global presence by identifying new markets, forging strategic partnerships and strengthening our existing client relationships to maximise our impact in the marine sector.  Taking a customer-centric approach to continue to tailor our products for our customers, who inspire all our services is another focus area, alongside operational excellence and efficiency. Like most other global businesses, we are leveraging digitalisation to ensure that we are enhancing productivity whilst fostering a culture of continuous improvement to ensure that we remain competitive and agile in the market.

Lastly, but most importantly, investing in our people and developing our diverse talent pool is crucial to us and I will prioritise development initiatives, as well as nurturing an inclusive workplace culture that celebrates each of our team members and their unique contributions.

Q. Congratulations, also, on being not only the first woman but also the first non-Japan-national to lead a principal operating company in Japan! What does this mean to you and how do you think your fresh perspective will benefit the company?

A. Our people are our greatest asset, and my appointment reflects the group’s investment in nurturing diverse talent and ensuring equal career opportunities across our team. As the first female and foreign national to lead a principal operating company in Japan, I’m proud to be able to share my own journey as a long-serving employee at the Nippon Paint Group, as a working mother and a mentor to new and emerging talent.


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Q. What are the most dynamic regions/countries in the marine coatings industry, in terms of both demand and innovation?

A. The Asia Pacific region – particularly countries like China, South Korea, Japan and Singapore – is a powerhouse territory in the marine coatings industry. These countries have robust shipbuilding industries and significant maritime trade, driving substantial demand for marine coatings. Therefore, our R&D centres are in Asia, which is clearly a key region for Nippon Paint Marine in terms of new product development and innovation.

The EMEA region is home to numerous shipowners who play a pivotal role in global maritime trade and transportation. The diverse range of countries, strategic location, modern fleet ownership, regulatory environment and port infrastructure make it a dynamic and significant market for the shipping industry. This is why we also have a strong presence in this market. At the same time, expanding global supply points is always necessary and we have also addressed this with new locations last year and more planned for 2024.

Q. What are the most prominent trends in the marine coatings industry right now and how is Nippon addressing them?

A. Helping the industry manage its decarbonisation journey is a huge priority for the marine coatings sector and for Nippon Paint Marine.  The demand for improving sustainability and meeting decarbonisation targets has become increasingly complex, driven by more stringent and divergent global and regional regulations.  Improving operational efficiencies to reduce emissions and ensure compliance is critical, as well as mitigating the significant increases in the costs of zero carbon future fuels.

As one of the most widely-used forms of clean technology, but also the most proven and accessible, marine coatings have a critical role to play. At Nippon Paint Marine, our focus is to continue to bring the most innovative solutions to market that can have the greatest impact in delivering the necessary operational efficiencies that our customers need.  And we have a long history and track record of success in delivering this.

For example, we were the first company to develop and utilise hydrogel-based technology in its products, based on the concept of biomimicry and using learnings from nature to inspire innovation.  Our most advanced hydrogel-based technology, FASTAR, is a low-friction, self-polishing antifouling coating which uses a unique hydrophilic and hydrophobic nanodomain resin structure in the coating film and can reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 8%.

Q. Is Nippon Marine planning to expand into any new markets in the near future?

A. Nippon Paint Marine Coatings has expanded into Vietnam, which we announced last year and has just launched in that market. We are continually evaluating our supply points and in 2023, we expanded and improved our network to include Australia, Egypt and Gibraltar. We will continue to expand these further this year in North America and South Africa.


Number one in Asia: PPCJ speaks to Nippon Paint’s Gladys Goh

Q. What, in your opinion, are the main challenges facing the marine coatings industry?

A. Decarbonisation, driving sustainability and complying with increasingly stringent marine environmental regulations are significant challenges for the industry.  But they also provide major opportunities for positive change. The world needs an efficient and successful commercial shipping fleet more than ever, and there has never been a more important time to bring genuinely innovative and accessible solutions that deliver proven, real-world results to market.

All our technology is inspired by our customers and ensuring that we invest in ongoing research and development, as well as keeping coatings accessible from a commercial perspective for the global fleet, is an ongoing challenge for our sector but one that drives our innovation and ambition.

Q. Nippon was the first manufacturer of biocide-free marine coatings. Is sustainability still a key focus for marine coatings and are there any new innovations that will be launched in the near future? 

A. Sustainability, ensuring compliance with more stringent environmental regulations and meeting regional and global decarbonisation targets are the key challenges for our customers. This is, therefore, where our focus needs to be and providing solutions that help them meet these challenges.

An example of our innovation and commitment to pioneering marine coatings is our award-winning product AQUATERRAS, the world’s first completely biocide-free and proven self-polishing underwater foul-resistant paint that uses entirely new technology in the marine coatings field. It works by using science and materials derived from medical anti-thrombogenic polymer technology, where hydrophilic and hydrophobic micro-domain structures actively combine to naturally repel any biological adhesion onto its surface. AQUATERRAS can reduce fuel consumption and associated costs and emissions by up to 10%.

We also have several new products coming to market this year, including expanding our range of low VOC products, plus launching ultra-high-solid epoxy, and methanol-resistant coatings. Our future innovations will not just include on-going product adaptations and evolution, but also the development of the next generation of hydrogel-based solutions.  And in doing this, we will create and deliver even more pioneering technology, driven by our world-leading teams of experts.”

Q. And finally, looking to the future – what do you see as being the main trends driving this industry in the next 10-20 years?

A. While alternative fuels are seen as crucial to decarbonising shipping, the current reality is that there is not the scale or infrastructure in place to create enough green ammonia, hydrogen, or other future fuel to meet demand. There is also significant competition from other, more advanced industries who are willing to pay more to meet their own renewable fuel needs. This will have the effect of exponentially driving up the costs of any new fuel coming into the shipping industry, way beyond the prices currently available within the bunkering supply chain.

All of this means that energy efficiency is crucial now for good operational performance, meeting current and impending regulations, and also mitigating some of the unavoidable costs of shipping’s transition to a hyper-expensive future fuels world.

Within this reality, viable clean technologies available today are crucial.  Hull coatings, as one of the most widely used forms of clean technology today, due to their availability, accessibility and proven results, will play a fundamental role in delivering energy efficiency.  This is also why it’s so vital that all antifouling coatings being used today are also non-toxic, biocide free and low VOC to ensure that they are fit for the future. I want to ensure that Nippon Paint Marine is front and centre in driving this.

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