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China Wins Number-One Rank in Annual Shipbuilding Orders for 2021

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File image courtesy CSSC Hudong-Zhongua Shipbuilding

Published Jan 3, 2022 9:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

China has taken the number-one spot in shipbuilding, overtaking South Korea for annual order volume by compensated gross tons (CGT), according to data released Sunday by Clarksons. 

Over the span of the year, China's shipbuilders raked in orders totaling about 22.8 million CGT, almost exactly 50 percent of the global total of 45.7 million. South Korean builders took in orders totaling 17.5 million CGT, or about 38 percent. 

China dominated in sales of new container ships, a segment which has taken off thanks to a surge in consumer goods cargo. In South Korea, the Big Three shipbuilders have emphasized sales of high-margin, high-value LNG carriers, which have better profitability. Korean shipyards dominate the LNG carrier segment, bringing in 37 orders of the type, including 16 for a mega-order for Qatar Energy and another 15 for Petronas. 

According to KBS World, Korean order volumes were lower in 2021 because South Korean shipbuilders were more selective, preferring high-value-added projects over total volume. All three of the Big Three exceeded their dollar-value sales targets for the year in 2021, bringing in a combined $46 billion in orders - far above the combined goal of $32 billion. 

In Korea, ordering activity is expected to be lower in the year ahead. As an example, top Korean shipbuilder KSOE has set a sales target of $17.4 billion for 2022 - about $5.4 billion less than its actual sales performance in 2021. 

In the long term, the Korean government envisions a future in which Korean yards dominate the green-shipping and autonomous-vessel markets of the next decade, just as they have long dominated LNG carrier construction. In September, the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced a plan for the nation's shipbuilders to win 75 percent of all eco-friendly vesse orders and 50 percent of all autonomous vessel orders by 2030. "We will strengthen the power of our shipbuilding industry and make it the overwhelming number one in the world that no one can match," South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a speech announcing the plan. 

South Korea and China have battled over the number-one order volume ranking for years. Korean yards won the title away from China in 2018 and have held it for the past three years.