Business / Industries

Shipyards change course to high-end vessels

By ZHONG NAN (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-27 08:41

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After building cheap bulk carriers and tugboats for more than a decade, Chinese shipyards have moved to upgrade their products to tankers to reach buyers in new segment of the shipping market.

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The new course adopted by shipyards in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai is largely the result of many global shipping companies reporting losses in the past four years because of overcapacity, falling ship prices, surging costs in labor, energy, steel and ship parts.

Wang Jinlian, secretary-general of the China Association of the National Shipbuilding Industry, said China is now focusing on vessels with a higher value, such as liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas carriers, as well as marine fishing ships, law enforcement vessels, large icebreakers and chemical tankers,

"Shipyards hope the new foray will help them tap into more buyers and reach new sectors," said Wang.

China replaced South Korea as the world's top shipbuilder in 2010. However, with their technological advantages, South Korean shipbuilders still occupy the top spot in the high-end segment of the market, which yields a higher profit.

Nantong COSCO KHI Ship Engineering Co, an equal-equity shipbuilding joint venture between China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co and Japan's Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd established in 1995, will build its first LNG carrier next year to upgrade its product structure.

The company had completed 137 types of ships before 2014 and is holding 43 orders in hand, which will be built within the next two years.

Han Chengmin, president of NACKS, said China, as well as industrial nations in Western Europe, are all eager to purchase natural gas from abroad under current global political and economic conditions. LNG carriers are exactly what they need to secure their energy supply from the world market, Han said.

The American Bureau of Shipping, a Houston-based classification society, predicted that around 100 LNG carriers will be bought by different shipowners throughout the world between 2017 and 2020.

"Our capacity to build LNG carriers has grown along with the consumption, demand and import of natural gas," said Han.

The shipyard aims to have an annual production capacity of two LNG carriers by 2018.

The world's LNG ship market is dominated by South Korea, Japan and China. South Korea was the world's largest LNG vessel manufacturer last year, with 68 percent of global orders, but its production capacity is said to be saturated.

Han said that as the world's container shipping market is increasingly dominated by mega-container ships, the company has also picked up its pace to build ships that can carry 18,000 20-foot equivalent container units, after handing over four 13,386 TEU container ships to COSCO Container Lines Co in the past two years.

After delivering only six LNG carriers to the world market before 2010, Shanghai-based Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co, China's first builder of LNG carriers, is now holding 14 LNG carrier orders placed by both domestic and foreign companies, including CNOOC Energy Technology and Services, China LNG Shipping Ltd, Teekay LNG Partners and British Gas Services Ltd.

Ji Fenghua, board chairman of Nantong Mingde Group, a private shipyard with 4,000 workers, said emerging markets such as Brazil, South Africa, Ghana and Turkey have all upped their demand for more industrial materials and products such as chemicals, vehicles and construction machinery from developed markets and China to improve their manufacturing capability and raise people's living standards.

"Therefore, we have focused on developing large chemical tankers and vehicle carriers for almost a decade," said Ji. "Our shipowners are mainly from Norway, Denmark, Germany and domestic markets."

Mingde gained an order from a European shipowner to build seven 24,600 weight tons of stainless steel chemical tankers from the middle of August, and it has a total order of 14 stainless steel chemical tankers in hand.

"We also discovered that individual tourism has become more popular in Europe, North America and Australia, as tourists are keen to take special cruises to visit the South Pole or Arctic areas. It will be an appealing market for us to enter and make a profit," Ji said.

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