Orders at Japanese shipyards rose for the first time in four months in March on a year-on-year basis, increasing 8.6 percent to 1.1 million gross tons, according to the Japan Ship Exporters’ Association.
The March growth followed year-over-year drops of 2.8 percent in December, 56.7 percent in January and 23.1 percent in February.
Japanese shipbuilders received orders for 21 export ships — 16 bulk carriers, four tankers and one general cargo vessel — in March. The 21 ships total about 454,000 compensated gross tons.
For all of fiscal 2011, which ended on March 31, Japanese export ship orders tumbled 34.9 percent from the previous fiscal year to about 8.1 million gross tons. Japanese shipbuilders received orders for 198 export ships, totaling about 3.9 million compensated gross tons, for the year.
Japan is one of the world’s top shipbuilding nations along with South Korea and China. But Japanese shipbuilders are struggling as demand for new vessels among ship owners is flagging amid a slowdown in the global economy due largely to the deep European debt crisis.
Japanese shipbuilders also face increasingly tough competition with their South Korean and Chinese rivals amid the strong value of the yen, which badly erodes their international price competitiveness as it makes Japanese products more expensive abroad.
There are also growing concerns in the Japanese shipbuilding industry about the so-called “2014 crisis.” If export ship orders remain in the doldrums, order backlogs could disappear at many Japanese shipyards as early as 2014, industry observers said.
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