After falling for 15 months in a row, Japanese export ship orders rose for the 13th consecutive month in December on a year-on-year basis, soaring 162.1 percent to 1,236,270 gross tons, according to figures released by the Japan Ship Exporters’ Association (JSEA) Tuesday.
The year-on-year pace of growth quickened for the first time in four months and was significantly higher than 29.9 percent in November.
In December, Japanese shipbuilders received orders for 37 export ships –- all bulk carriers. The 37 ships total 605,032 compensated gross tons.
In 2010, Japanese export ship orders totaled 11,153,401 gross tons, up 95.3 percent from the previous year.
Japanese shipbuilders received orders for 271 export vessels –- 251 bulk carriers, 10 general cargo vessels and 10 oil tankers -- in 2010. The 271 ships total 4,982,409 compensated gross tons.
Japan is one of the world’s top shipbuilding nations along with South Korea and China. Japan’s export ship orders had suddenly started to plunge in October 2008 due to the deep global economic downturn triggered by the financial crisis that erupted in the United States the previous month.
Japan started providing official financial support in early 2010 to shore up slumping vessel exports through the government-affiliated Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), one of the world’s biggest international financial institutions.
The robust growth figures in recent months compare with extremely low year-earlier levels, and shipowners’ demand for Japanese vessels has not yet recovered as despite recent numbers.
Gross tonnage of Japanese export ship orders in 2010 was still down 42.6 percent compared with the 19,425,920 gross tonnage registered in 2008.
“The worst is over (for the Japanese shipbuilding industry),” Takao Motoyama, chairman of the Shipbuilders’ Association of Japan (SAJ), declared at a press conference in mid-November.
However, at his latest press conference in late December, Motoyama, who is also chairman of Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. (MES), again painted a cautious picture of the Japanese shipbuilding industry, especially citing the appreciation of the yen.
The sharp rise in the value of the yen since last summer has “put Japanese shipbuilders at a disadvantage in terms of cost competitiveness vis-à-vis rival South Korean and Chinese shipbuilders,” Motoyama said.