Shipbuilding in Japan, Korea, China Collapses in Death Spiral of Orders

Shipbuilding in Japan, Korea, China Collapses in Death Spiral of Orders

“Worse than the one following the Global Financial Crisis.”

New orders received by Chinese shipyards – now infamous for undercutting competitors and sinking into bankruptcy – have plunged 58.5% so far this year through October, compared to last year, according to shipping industry data provider BIMCO, cited by the Nikkei. At South Korean shipyards, which include the three largest in the world, orders have plunged 84.2%; at Japanese shipyards, 90%.

They all focused on large dry-bulk vessels, tankers, and containerships. But this year, orders for tankers globally plunged 80% and for container ships 84%.

Global trade, which collapsed during the Financial Crisis but then recovered in a V-shaped manner, was expected to continue soaring. Instead, it has languished over the past few years. Carriers that transport these goods in dry-bulk vessels, tankers, and container ships, face rampant overcapacity and crushed shipping rates. Smaller ones have sunk. In August, Hanjin, the sixth largest carrier and a formerly too-big-to-fail company in South Korea, was allowed to fail. And they all stopped ordering ships.

However, orders at European shipyards have jumped 45% through the first eight months this year. On the global scale, they’re small players, accounting for only 9.3% of the order book. But they focus on the smaller thriving market for cruise ships, ferries, and tugs.

Globally, orders for ships plunged 77% so far this year through October. But 2015 had already been down 13% from 2014. And 2014 had been down 26% from 2013, the first good year since before the Financial Crisis. In 2007, orders had peaked at 92 million compensated gross tons (CGT). So far this year, orders are down to 10 million CGT.

At this rate, 2016 will be the worst year in BIMCO’s data series going back to 1996. Even back then, orders amounted to 18 million CGT.

No industry can survive for long when orders collapse at these rates. But next year might be worse, according to Peter Sand, BIMCO’s chief shipping analyst. For the Asian shipbuilders concentrated in the container, dry-bulk or offshore segments, “there is a possibility for postponements and cancellations.” Outright cancellations are bad enough. But “postponements can add a further headache to the shipyards’ liquidity, as the final payments in these cases may be delayed.”

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Wolf Richter

In his cynical, tongue-in-cheek manner, he muses on WOLF STREET about economic, business, and financial issues, Wall Street shenanigans, complex entanglements, and other things, debacles, and opportunities that catch his eye in the US, Europe, Japan, and occasionally China. WOLF STREET is the successor to his first platform… TP-Title-7-small-200px …whose ghastly name he finally abandoned in July 2014. Here’s the story on that. Wolf lives in San Francisco. He has over twenty years of C-level operations experience, including turnarounds and a VC-funded startup. He earned his BA and MBA in Texas and his MA in Oklahoma, worked in both states for years, including a decade as General Manager and COO of a large Ford dealership and its subsidiaries. But one day, he quit and went to France for seven weeks to open himself up to new possibilities, which degenerated into a life-altering three-year journey across 100 countries on all continents, much of it overland. And it almost swallowed him up.