Japanese Ship Orders Double in April

Japanese Ship Orders Double in April

After falling for 14 months in a row, Japanese export ship orders rose for the fifth consecutive month in April on a year-on-year basis, surging 103.3 percent to 833,791 gross tons, according to figures released by the Japan Ship Exporters' Association.

The gross tonnage was still 46.7 percent lower than in April 2008.

The April rise followed increases of 71.5 percent in December, 50.5 percent in January, 30.8 percent in February and 69.4 percent in March.

The robust growth figures compare with extremely low year-earlier levels. Japan's export ship orders suddenly plunged in October 2008 due to the deep global economic downturn triggered by the financial crisis that erupted in the United States the previous month.

In April, Japanese shipbuilders received orders for 20 export ships -- 19 bulk carriers and one general cargo ship. The 20 ships total 394,220 compensated gross tons.

Takao Motoyama, chairman of the Shipbuilders' Association of Japan, said the shipping market is now on a recovery trend, led by bulkers, and Japanese ship orders are also improving.

"But it would be too hasty to heave a sigh of relief," Motoyama, who is also chairman of Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding, said at a recent regular press conference.

Japanese export ship orders sank at their fastest pace in 17 years in fiscal 2009, which ended on March 31, plummeting 56.5 percent from the previous fiscal year to 6,340,591 gross tons. The fiscal 2009 decline followed a drop of 46.8 percent in fiscal 2008.

The fiscal 2009 gross tonnage was also the lowest since fiscal 1992. Japanese shipbuilders received orders for 119 export ships in fiscal 2009, the smallest number since fiscal 1992.

Japan, the world's second-largest economy, started providing official financial support recently to shore up slumping vessel exports, through the government-affiliated Japan Bank for International Cooperation, one of the world's biggest international financial institutions.

-- Contact Hisane Masaki at yiu45535@nifty.com.