The impact of lower levels of vessel ordering on the size of the global shipbuilding industry has been a hot topic. It’s clear that shipyard capacity has reduced, and global output is down by as much as 20-30% since its peak in 2010. This week we take a closer look through the data archives to see what the characteristics of the industry were both before and after the shipyard capacity surge.

Eastern Delight

By the 1990s shipbuilding had largely shifted to the East. Japan commanded the top spot amongst builders but competition from Korea was mounting. Globally, around 300 yards had units on order (for vessels 1,000 GT and above), with the vast majority concentrating on a traditional marine product mix. During this period Japan had almost twice as many yards as China whose shipbuilding industry was very much in its infancy.

A New Dawn

The ‘size’ of the shipbuilding industry remained relatively steady in the first years of the new millennium. However there were notable changes in the location of available capacity. The Korean shipbuilding industry started to take the largest share of orders and more meaningful levels of commercial capacity were opening up in China. The great ordering boom of 2005-08 saw the shipbuilding industry undergo a major shift. Analysis of the orderbook data published in World Shipyard Monitor over the years shows that more than 400 extra yards came online during the period with the vast majority opening in China. By 2010, 40% of the total number of yards was in China.

Sunset Already?

As the boomtime orderbook was digested and the economic downturn kicked in, the number of yards with conventional tonnage on order reduced quite rapidly. At the start of 2012 the number of yards with an orderbook had decreased by around 20% compared to the peak in 2009. By the start of 2014, the total was 422, bringing the industry, at least in size, back towards pre-boom levels.

Survival Of The Fittest

However, whilst the merchant orderbook was falling, offshore investment was on the up. This was good news for many yards who began to shift their attention towards the offshore sector. As a result, the proportion of yards with an orderbook building ‘ship-shaped’ offshore units jumped from 17% in 2005 to 40% at the start of 2014. The growth in the offshore sector also meant greater demand for ‘non-ship shaped’ units and fixed structures, and some of the surplus traditional marine capacity has also been soaked up by this (or indeed by the growing repair market). Useful survival tactics, although this year investment in the offshore sector as a whole is down about 30% y-o-y, and last year contracting in the marine sector returned to more significant levels.

So there you have it. A look back in time provides some context to where the shipbuilding industry might be today. After a meteoric rise it’s finding its way back towards a more realistic position. Demand for offshore units has helped some yards weather the cycle, but recently they have had a better chance to return to what they know best. Have a nice day.

SIW1126

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