Turkish ‘floating factories’ to export billions of face masks

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Under an ambitious business plan reminiscent of science-fiction movies, three Turkish ships are being repurposed to produce hundreds of millions of face masks during transoceanic sea voyages.

“The advantage of producing in a ship is that the sale price of ships is in the lowest level because they’re idle due to the pandemic. When you place 100 machines in a ship, production efficiency is higher than that of a factory, both in terms of time and protection,” Uğur Akkuş, executive board chair of A&S Holding, told daily Hürriyet.

A&S Holding founded a protective gear factory, named Global Mask, in 28 days amid the coronavirus pandemic and received orders in large numbers.

“The United States demanded about 100 or 150 million masks on every single order,” said Akkuş.

The company struggled to meet the demands as the production of 100 million masks takes over two weeks, and shipping to America can take more than a month. It would not be feasible to establish a factory in the United States within six months, according to Akkuş.

“Timing is crucial while fighting against a pandemic. So, I thought, ‘What if we produce the masks on the way?’ And this idea came up.”

The holding company has bought three car carrier ships for a total of 600 million Turkish Liras ($88.9 million). They are now being turned to floating factories at Tuzla shipyard in the far eastern outskirts of Istanbul. When preparations are concluded the first face mask ship will set sail at the end of the month. The other two ships will follow in every other week.

1.5 billion face masks to be unloaded

Every one of the ships will drop at least 500 million face masks and 10 million protective suits to the countries in North and South America, according to the business plan.

“The ships will be moored at ports in New York, Florida and California to unload the products. If we can get a permission, one of the ships can stay in New York to continue production there. We are also planning to send one of the ships to Latin America and the other one to London,” Akkuş said.

The company’s year-end export target is $500 million. If things go as planned, the company will consider buying three more ships to export products to the African countries via Morocco, the Arabian Peninsula nations via Qatar, and the Russian and Scandinavian markets via St. Petersburg, Akkuş added.

“We will donate 10 percent of the products on every ship to institutions that authorities allow us to do so. This is a project for humanity.”

Hurriyet Daily News

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