Korea reclaims crown from China as world’s top shipbuilder

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South Korea reclaimed the crown from the Chinese as the world’s largest shipbuilder after three years last quarter, sweeping global orders for high value-added, low-carbon ships to which it has been shifting its focus amid the decarbonization trend, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said on Wednesday.

South Korean shipyards received a total of $13.6 billion worth of orders in the first quarter, up 41.4% from the same period of last year, said the ministry, citing data released by Clarksons Research.

The figure is higher than China’s shipbuilding orders of $12.6 billion secured in the same period and is equivalent to 45.5% of the $29.9 billion in vessel orders awarded to South Korea for all of 2023.

It marked the first time for South Korea to recapture the No. 1 spot as the world’s top shipbuilder for a single quarter since the fourth quarter of 2021.

The country, home to HD Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Samsung Heavy Industries Co. and Hanwha Ocean Co, swept global contracts with orders for 29 LNG and 20 ammonia carriers placed in the first quarter of this year.

The data compiled by Clarksons Research exclude warship orders, for which Korea is also emerging as a strong player.

In terms of volume, however, South Korea lagged behind China. The volume of orders placed to its shipyards reached 4.49 million compensated gross tonnage (CGT) in the first three months, compared to 4.90 million CGT for China.

Still, Korean shipbuilders saw their order books bulge compared to the year-earlier period, whereas those of their Chinese rivals slightly contracted.

The volume of orders they won in the first quarter shot up 32.9% on-year, in contrast to the 0.1% dip of the neighboring country.

In March alone, Korean shipyards received a combined 1.05 million CGT of orders, surpassing 0.73 CGT for China.

In the same month, HD Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries and Hanwha Ocean ranked as the top three shipbuilders in the world.

The ministry said in a statement that the shipbuilding industry will play a key role in achieving the country’s export target of $700 billion in 2023.

it is preparing to unveil measures in the second quarter of the year to strengthen the competitiveness of small and medium-sized shipyards and shipbuilding equipment suppliers.

Korea’s shipbuilding exports have been on an upward trend on a year-on-year basis since July 2023.

Source: The Korea Economic Daily