In this undated photo, Zhang Wuyi works on a civilian submersible at his workshop in Hanyang, Wuhan of central China's Hubei province. [Photo: Wuhan Evening News]
After being laid off from his previous job, Zhang Wuyi from Hanyang in central China's Hubei province has found himself a new line of work making and selling mini submarines, according to the local Wuhan Evening News.
Zhang has set up his workshop in Hanyang, where he also has an office in a condemned building with five tables and an old computer. Hanyang is part of the metropolitan area that makes up the Hubei provincial capital Wuhan, which is known for its extremely hot weather in the summer. Yet Zhang has no air conditioner in the office.
Nor do the hardships end there. Zhang at one point broke his left leg while working on a submersible, yet continued to work against doctor's advice during the recovery period, meaning he is likely to walk with a limp for the rest of his life.
Zhang Wuyi, 37, is the student of Li Yuming, the first civilian submersible builder in China. Zhang said that he actually laughed at Li at the outset because he did not believe anyone could actually make a submarine of his own. Yet Zhang said he owes everything to Li for helping him in his new career as he only has a high-school education. Zhang also borrowed a lot of money from Li to go into business, as other potential investors would avoid him on the street. He says he has invested some 3 million yuan (US$473,500) in his enterprise.
Zhang says he has been contracted to make three submersibles this year, each one costing him some 200,000 yuan (US$31,500) to produce.
Zhang employs 68-year-old man also surnamed Li, who decided to help Zhang not because of the money but because of Zhang's enthusiasm. Zhang said many people contacted them after they finished the first submersible. Their three customers for this year come from Dalian, Penglai and Longkou, all in the Bohai Gulf region of northern China. Zhang says he is not making luxury submersibles for tourism but rather small and simple vessels for fishermen.
Cong Zhijie, a fisherman in Dalian and Zhang's first customer, said he has caught a lot of sea cucumbers -- a delicacy in China -- using Zhang's submersible. "I was brave enough to be the first user of his submersible, but that machine helped me to catch up to 50 kilograms of sea cucumbers in 40 minutes." The vessel has not only brought better profits but has also created a safer working environment because he no longer has to send divers into the water when it is dangerous, he said.