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China to retain lead in global shipbuilding

Posted on January 3, 2024

China will retain its lead in the global shipbuilding market this year, and this trend is expected to persist into 2024, market watchers and shipbuilders said.

With robust growth in both new orders as well as output this year, Chinese shipyards have demonstrated greater innovation, productivity and supply chain advantages compared to foreign rivals, they added.

China’s shipbuilding output climbed 12.3 percent year-on-year to 38.09 million deadweight tons (dwt) in the first 11 months of 2023, accounting for 50.1 percent of the world’s total, data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology showed.

New orders soared 63.8 percent on a yearly basis to 64.85 million dwt, taking up 65.9 percent of the world’s total during the period, according to the data.

China’s shipbuilding industry is expected to maintain high performance in 2023, driven by a global recovery in the new vessels and offshore engineering markets, said He Guangshun, director of the marine strategic planning and economics department at the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The nation’s shipbuilding industry is poised to grow further in 2024, taking the lead in the export sector, said Zheng Huiming, president of the Zhejiang Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, which is based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

This will be propelled by increased global demand for new vessels utilizing liquefied natural gas, methanol, hydrogen and fuel cells as power sources, as well as the quick development of China’s three shipbuilding clusters in the Yangtze River Delta region, Pearl River Delta region and Bohai Bay area, said Zheng.

China’s shipbuilding industry, which has benefited from a tangible growth of the Belt and Road Initiative, has also expanded into many new overseas markets and emerging sectors over the past decade, he said, adding that it will explore diversified paths for market expansion in the next phase.

New Times Shipbuilding Co’s three docks are operating at full capacity, with orders rolling into the first half of 2027, said Du Haiming, the assistant head of the company’s marketing department.

The shipbuilder, based in Jingjiang, Jiangsu province, has delivered 24 vessels to foreign shipowners to date this year, Du added.

China Merchants Jinling Shipyard (Nanjing) Co, which is based in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, said it has delivered several 7,000-unit car carriers to its overseas clients this year. The shipyard is also building a 9,400-unit car carrier and developing ships capable of carrying over 10,000 vehicles.

Xu Lian, vice-president of the company, said intelligent ships will be the future of the shipbuilding industry due to the rapid development and widespread application of new-generation technologies such as information technology and artificial intelligence.

Intelligent ships are those that have autonomous control, remote operation and adaptive learning capabilities. They are capable of making decisions autonomously and executing tasks based on environmental changes and mission requirements.

China’s shipbuilding industry will maintain a stable development trend and continue to lead in the global market in 2024, Xu said.

Leveraging the advantageous business opportunities of its ports and a well-developed logistics network, the Yangtze River Delta region, particularly in Shanghai and Jiangsu province, has cultivated robust capabilities in manufacturing and production support, said Qu Huili, head of the statistics division at Shanghai Customs.

For example, Shanghai-based Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co was the only builder of large-scale LNG carriers in China before.

But this year marked a significant shift as several other major shipyards, including Jiangnan Shipyard (Group) Co, Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co, Jiangsu Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Group and China Merchants Industry Holdings Co, have all started construction for their inaugural LNG carrier orders.

This development signifies the emergence of a robust industrial cluster in China dedicated to the production of large LNG carriers.

The holding orders of China’s shipbuilding industry totaled 134.09 million dwt at the end of November, expanding 29.4 percent year-on-year and representing 53.4 percent of the global market share, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.


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