The number of ‘active’ shipyards globally has more than halved since the start of 2009, falling to around 400 shipyards at the start of September 2016, with rapid growth in the total followed by steep decline all within the last decade. In today’s extremely weak contracting environment, remaining ‘active’ is clearly a difficult challenge for many shipbuilders.
Builders Becoming Less Active
In the analytical framework used here, a yard is defined as ‘active’ if it has at least one vessel (1,000+ GT) on order, with ‘inactive’ builders with no orderbook suggestive of highly vulnerable capacity. Looking back, global contracting increased dramatically (by 78%) from 2002 to peak in 2007, with the orderbook peaking in 2009. With capacity expanding to meet this demand, the number of active yards skyrocketed (see graph), rising 72% from 2005 to a peak of 931 yards in 2009. However, since the financial crisis, the shrinking orderbook has led the number of active yards to decline. As of start September 2016 there were 402 active yards, down 57% on the 2009 peak. Alongside this drop in the number of active yards, newbuild output has fallen and this year is projected to stand 34% below its 2010 peak in CGT terms.
Chinese Yards Losing The Bulk
From 2005, the number of active Chinese yards grew rapidly, increasing 117% to a peak of 382 yards in 2009. Many of the new yards specialised in the bulkcarrier sector; Chinese builders accounted for half of bulker orders during this period. Since then, the number of active Chinese yards has declined by 63%, with almost half of these closures accounted for by ‘small’ yards that had delivered two ships or fewer. There were just 140 active Chinese yards at the start of September 2016, or around 35% of all active yards globally. The number of active yards in Japan has been more steady, peaking at 71 in 2008, before falling 17% by September 2016, when 59 were reported to have an orderbook. Meanwhile, larger Korean yards have mostly remained active up to today. Korea’s historically high number of active yards in the late 2000s was largely due to the establishment of around 20 small yards, many of which have now closed. Elsewhere, post-2008, European yards struggled to compete for the more limited number of orders. By September 2016, 140 fewer European yards were active than back in 2008.
The Challenge To Be Active
Looking ahead, many active yards appear vulnerable today. Around 240 currently active shipyards are scheduled to deliver their last units on order by the end of 2017. Of course, some of these yards may yet receive orders or have deliveries delayed. However, around a quarter of active yards have only a single ship on order, while around 40% are not reported to have taken a contract since 2014. Only 59 builders have deliveries due into 2019 and beyond.
So, the number of active yards has more than halved since 2009, with a prominent feature being the exit of many Chinese builders from the scene. With ordering levels likely to remain subdued going forward, some shipyards that do not already have substantial orderbooks may also find remaining active a challenge.