The 19.6 percent year-over-year decrease in Japanese ship export orders in 2011 is raising concerns that an order backlog could disappear or be feeble by 2014.
The order decline in 2011 was the first annual drop in two years, according to the Japan Ship Exporters’ Association. Japanese export ship orders in 2011 were only about a third of what they were in 2003, when they hit a record high of 26,7 million gross tons.
The dearth of orders may spur major realignment in the Japanese shipbuilding industry, with the parent companies of IHI Marine United and Universal Shipbuilding reportedly in the final stages of talks on merging the units.
Japan is one of the world’s top shipbuilding nations along with South Korea and China. But Japanese shipbuilders are now struggling as demand for new vessels among ship owners is flagging amid a slowdown in the global economy, largely because of the deep European debt crisis.
Japanese shipbuilders are also facing increasingly tough competition with their South Korean and Chinese rivals amid a steep appreciation of the yen. The currency has been hovering around record high levels, badly eroding their international price competitiveness.
The Japanese shipbuilding industry was showing some signs of recover in late last year, as export orders rose 47.7 percent in November and 26.5 percent in October. But the run ended in December, when orders fell 2.8 percent year-over-year.
Japanese shipbuilders received orders for 29 export ships, 28 of them bulk carriers, in December. The 29 ships total 542,631 compensated gross tons.
Shipbuilders in 2011 received orders for 218 export ships, including 199 bulk carriers, down 53 from the previous year. The 218 ships total 4.3 million gross tons.
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