Japanese export ship orders fell in May for the first time in 18 months on a year-on-year basis, sliding 41 percent to 551,270 tons, according the Japan Ship Exporters Association.
The year-on-year pace of growth had slowed for three months in a row before turning negative in May, a sign of the struggles in the country’s industrial sector in the wake of the twin natural disasters in March.
After more than tripling year-over-year in January, ship orders grew 35.4 percent in February, 10.9 percent in March and 9.4 percent in April.
Japanese shipbuilders in May received orders for 18 export ships — 16 bulk carriers and two marine resource research vessels. The 18 ships total 303,556 compensated gross tons.
Japan is one of the world’s top shipbuilding nations, along with South Korea and China. Japan’s export ship orders 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, one of the world’s biggest international financial institutions.
Japan now is struggling to recover from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the northeastern part of the country on March 11.
Although some small shipyards in the disaster-hit areas were affected, major Japanese shipyards that build large vessels for exports are concentrated in western Japan and remain intact.
Speaking at his first press conference as new chairman of the Shipbuilders’ Association of Japan, Kazuaki Kama said last week the Japanese shipbuilding industry faces ongoing challenges.
“With the global economy slowing down broadly, the flow of goods by sea has fallen sharply, the demand-and-supply imbalance for shipping space has been widening, and the new shipbuilding market remains in the doldrums,” he said.
Kama also expressed concerns about the excessive ship building capacity in South Korea and China, higher prices for steel products and an appreciation of the yen.
In 2010, Japanese export ship orders totaled 11,153,401 gross tons, up 95.3 percent from the pervious year.