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Korean Shipbuilders Regain Lead Over China with Dominance in LNG Orders
By Sea and Coast | 19/08/2023
South Korea's Shipbuilding Industry Remains Competitive Despite Speculations of Decline
Amidst concerns about a potential decline, South Korea's shipbuilding sector has once again outperformed its Chinese counterparts, securing the top position for new orders. This competition for industry dominance has seen South Korea and China vying for supremacy, with differing views on the future trajectory. South Korean officials emphasize eco-friendly technology and automation, while China focuses on price and volume advantages.
In July, South Korea reclaimed the largest share of new orders, marking the first time in five months, as reported by Clarkson Research Service's market analysis. South Korean shipbuilders obtained 44% of new orders, while Chinese shipbuilders received 34%. Notably, South Korea received orders for 29 vessels in July, totaling 1.46 million compensated gross tonnes (CGT) out of a total order volume of 3.33 million CGT. China, on the other hand, received orders for 48 ships, totaling 1.13 million CGT.
Although South Korea previously held this position in February 2023, its overall order book remains second to China in total size. China currently commands 47 percent of the global order book, equivalent to 117.77 million gross tons (GT) and 55.35 million tons. South Korea's order backlog stands at 39.26 million tons, constituting a third of the global order book.
Despite a global slowdown in shipbuilding orders compared to the record pace of 2021 and 2022, both South Korea and China reported increased orders. China's orders predominantly include bulkers and containerships, while South Korea's strength lies in gas carriers and dual-fuel vessels. The Korean shipbuilding industry boasts a noteworthy achievement with three-quarters of all new LNG carrier orders, totaling 255 vessels.
According to industry speculation, South Korea may obtain a major order from Qatar for LNG carriers, utilising building slots scheduled in 2020. It's rumored that HD Hyundai Heavy Industries, Hanwha Ocean, and Samsung Heavy Industries may jointly secure orders for around $9 billion and up to 40 ships tied to Qatar's LNG expansion program.
Despite these positive signs, a report from Japan's Nomura Securities suggests a potential decline in the global shipping industry, particularly for HD Hyundai, which might have peaked in 2022. Nomura forecasts a minimum 20 percent decline in new orders. Clarkson's July report supports this with a 25 percent decline in 2023 compared to 2022.
While industry executives acknowledge the likelihood of reduced orders in 2023 and 2024 compared to the peak of 2022, HD Hyundai challenges Nomura's prediction, citing nearly $7.3 billion in orders this year, akin to the same period last year.
South Korea's shipbuilding industry remains optimistic, highlighting its booked capacity for the next three and a half years. Anticipating demand driven by decarbonization and new technologies, South Korea continues to invest in their development.