Feb 2, 2015

Murakami named president of K Line


President Jiro Asakura (left), Vice President (New Presinet) Eizo Murakami (right)

Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line) announced on Jan. 30 that President Jiro Asakura will resign to become representative director and chairman, handing over the presidency to Vice President Eizo Murakami on April 1. Asakura told a press conference at the company's Tokyo head office, "We have all but achieved our goal set in the midterm management plan (to be wound up at end of fiscal 2014)," adding that he decided to ask Murakami to take the helm upon the launch of a new midterm management plan in April. Murakami defined continued improvement of the company's financial base and pursuit of stable profitability as the themes he will initially address. "I will follow up what President Asakura has done and work to build a solid business foundation," he said.

On the change of the presidency at this time, Asakura said, "It is almost four years since I assumed the presidency. I had an awfully difficult time in my first year of presidency as Japan was hit by the great earthquake disaster and the yen's rapid appreciation. Our midterm management plan (for fiscal 2012-2014) aimed to pull the company out of the rock bottom is to be wound up at the end of March. I think we have all but achieved our goal set in the plan. We will be moving on to a new plan in April. I thought this is the right time for me to hand over the presidency to Mr. Murakami."

Asked why he named Murakami as his successor, Asakura said, "We faced an extremely severe situation in 2009 right after the Lehman shock. Since then, Mr. Murakami and I have been working hand in hand to help revive K Line. We could get along well with each other in terms of vector. We will be incorporating a new growth strategy into our new midterm management plan. However, we will spend our initial years to push ahead further with our present policy line in an effort to establish a solid business foundation. I that sense, I thought Mr. Murakami is the fittest person to assume the presidency."

Murakami said that the themes he will initially address will be "continuation of the present policy line aimed to improve our financial strength", "pursuit of stable profit for the purpose of enhancing the profitability of our existing business and holding the impact of the slumped market to the minimum" and "enforcement of a policy to ensure the safety of navigation and conservation of the environment". He added, "Shipping is a highly volatile business. This requires us to maintain a stable financial base and enhance profitability step by step. With this in mind, we will be putting greater priority on domains that will contribute to stable profitability albeit with a low margin."

On a segment-by-segment approach, Murakami said, "We will seek to improve our service quality instead of aiming for a larger market share for the containership business." On the drybulk business that has been persistently in the black for the last 34 years, he said, "Our firmly established way of doing this business has been widely accepted by our customers. We will hold fast to our medium- and long-term service contracts." He defined the energy transport/resources development business as one of domains that can contribute to stable profitability, saying, "We will resolutely go for it."

Murakami, aged 61, joined K Line in 1975. He is three years younger than Asakura but is only one year junior in career with K Line. He has spent much of his career in the containership business. After heading the North America Section of the Export Department, the Secretary Section and the Containership Business Group, he became a director in 2005 and was promoted to executive officer when K Line adopted the executive officer system in 2006. He assumed the post of managing executive officer in 2007 and representative director and senior managing executive officer in 2009. As an executive officer, he was charged with the containership, port/harbor and car carrier business. He has been assisting Asakura as vice president since April 2014.

Asakura was promoted to president from vice president in May 2011 upon the sudden resignation of his predecessor Kenichi Kuroya. As soon as he launched a new three-year midterm management plan in April 2012, he had to grapple with three big challenges ? recouping profitability in fiscal 2013, building up stable profit and recuperating the impaired financial base. He led a drastic cost-cutting campaign for the containership segment and turned its big loss into a profit in the first year of the management plan. The company made an overall profit in fiscal 2014 on increased revenues from the dedicated tramper business. It has estimated ordinary profit to grow 50% to Y48 billion in fiscal 2015. Asakura has made remarkable progress in improving the company's financial base.

He assumed the presidency of the Japanese Shipowners' Association (JSA) in June 2013 for a two-year term, becoming the first incumbent company president to double as JSA president in four years. As JSA head, he worked hard to have the special depreciation system for ship bottoms extended beyond March 2015. He argued at the time, "For shipowners, the system is inevitable to continue their business. It will also contribute to the revitalization of the regional economies advocated by the Abe administration." He had energetically lobbied lawmakers, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Tourism & Transport (MLIT) and other quarters concerned. He has also addressed the shipping industry's major policy agenda, in particular the new toll system for the Panama Canal, cultivation of qualified pilots and environmental regulations.

Asakura once said that his visit to Djibouti in September 2013 as JSA president was an "unforgettable experience in my life". On behalf of shipping firms, he conveyed his gratitude to the Self-Defense Force and Japan Coast Guard officials for their engagement in anti-piracy operations off Somalia.

Profile of new President Murakami

Murakami joined K Line upon graduation from the Faculty of Economics of Kwansei Gakuin University in 1975. He became a director in 2005 after serving as chief of the North America Section of the Export Department, the Secretary Section and the Containership Business Group. He was promoted to executive officer when K Line adopted the executive officer system in 2006, and assumed the post of managing executive officer in 2007 and representative director and senior managing executive officer in 2009. He has been representative director and vice president executive officer since April 2014. He was born in Hyogo Prefecture in 1953.

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