China's shipbuilding industry saw new ship orders plummet by 67.5% in the first six months of 2012 and as much as 90% of the country's shipyards turned out to have secured no new order since the turn of the year, reported South China Morning Post on Tuesday.
Chinese yards inked new orders for 182 ships in the first half of the year, down by 67.5% from 561-ship orders signed in the same period of last year.
Even the largest private-sector shipbuilding company Rongsheng Heavy Industries failed to win a single newbuilding order except two barge type rigs booked in May.
Back in 2007 Chinese won newbuilding orders for 2,036 ships of 32.54m cgt but in the first half of this year the figure collapsed to a mere 3m cgt.
China is emerging fast as a strong competitor to the traditional offshore rig-building powerhouses of Singapore and Korea as shipyards such as COSCO, CIMC Raffles, Shanghai Shipyard, DSIC, etc. fight for a bigger market share in a deep-water exploration boom as well as shallow offshore.
China started making jack-up rigs for shallow-water drilling and semi-submersibles for deep-water operations about seven years ago.
In that short span of time, industry data shows it managed to secure a fifth of the $72 billion orders placed, tempting customers with aggressive pricing, Reuters reported.
China also topped the annual orders lists at least twice during that period. In 2009, it outpaced Singapore, traditionally the dominant producer of jack-ups, and in 2006 and 2011, ousted Korea on semi-subs.
"Over time there is no reason why Chinese yards – the good yards – could not be competitive internationally," Scott Kerr, chief executive officer of Norwegian oil service company Sevan Drilling, told Reuters.
Sevan has taken delivery of two ultra-deepwater rigs worth more than $1 billion from COSCO and has ordered another two such rigs from the shipbuilder for delivery in 2013 and 2014.
Recently many Chinese private shipyards in Wenling, Zhejiang appear to have a problem in securing financing, according to People's Daily of China,
With regard of reasons why private yards have difficulties in getting financing, banks are tightening ship finance segment and shipyards rather prefer stable management than scraping the money for development.
The daily paper pointed out that banks are actively involved in corporate finance during a boom period, which causes many companies to face a crisis and bankruptcy, if it is worse, when the market turns downward.
The People's Daily stated banks should keep supporting small-and-medium private yards to be able to overcome crisis and manage sustainable development, as well as the Chinese government should provide governmental support for them.
Particularly, private shipbuilders, above all, need continued investment for technical improvement, which would be impossible without financial support from banks.
While rumors that massive Chinese shipyards will file for bankruptcy in a few years spreading around, Li Sheng, the head of Shanghai-based S&P and newbuilding broker Mainland Shipping, has rather an optimistic view.
He pointed out that predictions of a mass extinction of Chinese shipyards are exaggerated and forecast that most of approximately 400 'emerging Chinese shipyards', which have been established after 2005 with having heavily invested in shipyard facility and infrastructures, will survive recent crisis.
Despite the new order drought, contract cancellations, some private shipyards' collapses, etc., Li emphasized that China's emerging yards have already adapted successfully to the present harsh environment.
Li explained emerging yards that have made a 'serious and adequate' investment are doing quite well, with a strong financial background.
However, 20% of emerging yards (around 80 companies), which were set up speculatively by non-shipping related industries with minimal capital expenditures, are likely to die out.
Li said, "The inefficient, lower-quality shipyards will be pushed out and Chinese shipbuilding industries will be on a healthier track."
Many small-sized shipyards in China, plagued by a shortage of new orders, are on the brink of bankruptcy as a result of the sluggish world economy, a glut of vessels and soaring fuel prices.
Zhejiang Jingang Shipbuilding Co Ltd, headquartered in the Taizhou city of East China's Zhejiang province, recently filed a bankruptcy petition to the Taizhou Municipal Intermediate People's Court due to its significant loans and lack of new orders, said a public relations officer of the court, without elaborating.
Founded in 2004, the company has the ability to build four vessels with a tonnage of over 16,000 tons per year, making it the biggest export shipbuilding enterprise in Taizhou, its website says.
In February, the company had not received any orders since last year, Liu Min, a senior director at Jingang said at the time.
Most banks regard the export-led shipbuilding industry as "high risk", refusing to underwrite or extend loans to related companies.
The Jingang shipyard is only one among many similar Zhejiang-based shipyards that have suspended business and dismissed employees due to the difficult market conditions. In June, Ningbo Hengfu Shipping Trade (Group) Co Ltd and Ningbo Beilun Sky Shipbuilding Co Ltd both filed motions to sell off assets.
Industry losses are widespread, as the volume of new orders in 2011 fell 52 percent, according to the China Association of the National Shipbuilding Industry.
In the first five months of 2012, China built ships amounting to 22.5 million deadweight tons, down 10.1 from the previous year.
New orders totaled 9.45 million deadweight tons, a drop of 47.3 percent from a year earlier. Combined outstanding orders were 134.4 million deadweight tons, down 10.4 percent from the end of 2011.
As a shipowner, you should keep a close eye on the work done by the shipyard if you choose to have your ships built in China, says Torben Janholt, CEO of J. Lauritzen.
It takes a sharp focus on the shipyards' work to have ships built in China, but it pays off because of the low price, said CEO of J. Lauritzen, Torben Janholt, at the International Maritime Industries Forum's spring meeting, which took place on Wednesday afternoon at CBS. Board members of the Blue MBA participated, along with members of the industry and of Women's International Shipping & Trading Association.
"There is a learning curve for everything, and China is a relatively young country when it comes to building ships. It's fine if you keep that in mind, but you still a fairly big supervisory team opresent at the shipyard," said Torben Janholt.
The supervisory team's job is to control the work done by the yard, so the ship owner is sure that the ships is being built as agreed upon, and also the ensure that there are no nasty surprises for the owner when the ship is delivered to him. The team consists of employees with the relevant knowledge, acting as the owner's eyes and ears on the ship yard.
Expensive in Japan
J. Lauritzen currently has newbuildings on the way from Chinese shipyards only.
"We have had our ships built in Japan for many years, where we have many good contacts. But ships are very expensive, and they haven't necessarily improved upon their designs. Korea is the most advanced country for ship building, but China wants in on that market. They can build ships at a favorable price, but you have to make a bigger effort yourself and keep an eye on the process. There are some really good shipyards, but are some yards one should be careful with," said Torben Janholt.
To Torben Janholt, the basic attitude toward Chinese ship building is the same as for any other business.
"As with all business, choose your partners with care."
Chinese shipyards will continue to construct more newbuildings in the tanker, dry-bulk and container segments although there is a surplus of tonnage in market and the global economic slowdown, said DNB.
At the DNB investors conference in Singapore, "The Chinese will do what is in their power to make sure that [new] orders will come in. These measures could be market distorting," said Philip Clausius, CEO of First Ship Lease Trust.
Also, He added that it is difficult to predict how much further newbuild prices would fall.
There were also worries about various governments offering support to shipbuilding yards, which will lead to buyers more attractive to newbuildings, saying "The Chinese state will have tonnage directed to state-owned yards. For private yards, the incentive to take new orders is reduced. So this will create a floor for the new building price over the next couple of years."
Although China saw a 52% fall in orders for new ships in 2011 from levels seen in 2007, it was still the world's largest shipbuilder, accounting for 41% of the global share.
Some 350 Chinese shipyards are still actively in business and an estimated 2,000 yards are currently operational in China.
Chinese shipyards are failing to find new work 20 months after Premier Wen Jiabao sought to encourage ordering by pledging $5 billion of loans to Greek vessel owners, who control the world’s biggest merchant fleet.
The move by state-run banks was announced by Wen in October 2010 and they have distributed about $1 billion since then, according to XRTC Business Consultants, the Athens-based adviser to China Development Bank Corp., which is coordinating the lending. Danaos Corp. (DAC), Greece’s largest container-shipping line, was one of the companies to take a loan, said the company’s president, John Coustas.
“It was a time-consuming and painful exercise,” Coustas said in an interview in Athens. The project “was a political statement that was not really matched by the will of the banking system over there to proceed with the actual money,” he said.
Almost 90 percent of China’s shipyards received no orders this year and about 28 percent have secured none since the end of 2009, Clarkson Plc (CKN), the world’s largest shipbroker, said May 16. Shares of China Rongsheng Heavy Industries Group (1101), China’s largest non-state builder, fell 55 percent in the past year, valuing the company at HK$13.6 billion ($1.8 billion).
Owners are refraining from new orders after rates plunged and the combined capacity of oil tankers, container ships and commodity carriers reached a record. Earnings from the industry averaged the lowest since 1999 so far this year, according to the ClarkSea Index, a measure of freight rates for different vessel types published by Clarkson.
European Lenders Retreat
European banks, which provide about 80 percent of the shipping industry’s financing, are retreating because of a lack of dollar funding and stricter EU capital requirements, according to Frankfurt-based DVB Bank SE (DVB), which in March had 450 such loans. Thirteen of the world’s 19 largest shipping banks stopped new lending to the industry, Dagfinn Lunde, a member of DVB’s board of managing directors, said at a March 9 presentation in London.
Banks in China may have another $3 billion to $5 billion to lend and are streamlining the credit procedures improving loan handling and documentation, George Xiradakis, the managing director of Piraeus, Greece-based based XRTC, said in a phone interview June 1. Greek owners have orders for new vessels worth $31 billion, the most by value of any country and about 10 percent of the total, Clarkson data show.
Safe Bulkers Inc. (SB), the Athens-based operator of 20 commodity carriers, didn’t seek Chinese funding because of the costs, said its President Loukas Barmparis. Chinese banks proposed loans at 3.5 percentage points above the London interbank offered rate, about 1 percentage point more than other lenders, he said. Libor is the rate at which banks say they can borrow in dollars from each other.
“It’s the smaller owners that do not have alternatives that would be the ideal candidates to absorb these funds,” Barmparis said in an interview in Athens on May 28.
Greek companies controlled 16 percent of the merchant fleet by capacity at the start of 2011, making it the largest ship- owning nation, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Japanese owners controlled almost 16 percent. Ten Greek owners have borrowed from China, according to a May 31 presentation from XRTC.
China Shipbuilding Industry Co. (601989), whose shares slumped 27 percent in the past year, became the first yard to sell convertible bonds in the country. The state-backed supplier of submarines, missile destroyers and merchant vessels sold 8.1 billion yuan ($1.3 billion) of six-year notes with a 0.5 percent initial coupon that convert into equity, according to a stock exchange statement yesterday.
Chinese policy makers are encouraging banks to lend more after earlier seeking to restrict credit. The amount of cash banks must set aside as reserves was reduced for the third time in six months, the central bank said May 12.
New orders for Chinese vessels would add to a glut of capacity and driving down rates, said Nikolas Tsakos, the chief executive officer of Tsakos Energy Navigation Ltd. (TNP) The Athens- based company, which operates tankers hauling crude and refined oil products, hasn’t sought financing from them.
“I was always against this,” Tsakos said in an interview in Athens on May 28. “This is for owners who can’t get Western funds. It was so bureaucratic it has not worked.”
Chinese shipyards will continue to churn out more vessels in the tanker, dry-bulk and container segments although there is a surplus of tonnage in market and the global economic slowdown, panelists at the DNB investors conference in Singapore said this week.
"The Chinese will do what is in their power to make sure that [new] orders will come in. These measures could be market distorting," said Philip Clausius, CEO of First Ship Lease Trust, adding that it is difficult to predict how much further newbuild prices would fall.
Although China saw a 52% fall in orders for new ships in 2011 from levels seen in 2007, it was still the world's largest shipbuilder, accounting for 41% of the global share.
According to a Singapore-based sales and purchase broker, China has some 350 shipyards that are actively in business. An estimated 2,000 yards are currently operational in China. Beijing is targeting the inclusion of five Chinese shipyards among the top 10 in the world by 2015.
"The Chinese state will have tonnage directed to state-owned yards. For private yards, the incentive to take new orders is reduced. So this will create a floor for the new building price over the next couple of years," said Julian Proctor, managing director of Tiger Group Investments, adding that for social reasons, Chinese shipyards would not drop prices.
Panelist were also worried about various governments offering support to shipbuilding yards. Clausius expressed concern over major shipbuilding nations subsidizing their yards to attract ship buyers.
Also, debate ranged over whether shipowners would go for newbuilds or retrofit their ships with efficient engines and equipment.
"We want ships that are efficient or can be retrofitted to make them more efficient," said Jonathan Hill, managing director of Tufton Oceanic. But Proctor pointed out that retrofitting did not make economic sense and that the shipowner's decision would be to look at newbuilds.
On scrapping of tonnage, the speakers said it was at an all-time high at the moment and that the decision to scrap depended on the earnings received. "If the ship is bringing in negative cash flow, then you should scrap it. The scrapping rates have reached an all-time high," Khalid Hashim, CEO of Thailand's Precious Shipping Company, said.
The panelists noted that currently there is a two-tier market with the freight rate for older vessels lower than for modern ships, which could boost scrapping activity.
The slackening of China's economic growth could have a big impact on all segments of shipping, the speakers said. China's economy grew an annual 8.1% in the first quarter of 2012, which is the slowest in three years. Beijing has also cut its economic growth target for this year to 7.5%, down from a growth of 9.2% seen last year and 10.4% in 2010.
"Without China there would be no shipping market. If China sees serious slowdown, it would have great impact on all markets," Hashim said.
SLOW STEAMING HELPING THE VLCC MARKET
With bunker fuel prices going up, VLCC owners have resorted to slow steaming. Supertankers are currently steaming at 30 knots instead of the normal spread of 15-16 knots to cut down on bunker fuel consumption.
Slow steaming has helped shipowners garner better earnings from their vessels since the beginning of this year with time charter equivalent in the region of $30,000/day compared with last year's $20,000/day.
According to Nicolay Dyvik, head of DNB's Equity Research for Shipping, slow steaming has helped keep the utilization of the global VLCC fleet at 90% while only 70% of the tonnage would be tied up in the absence of it.
Delving into the potential of product tanker segment, First Ship Lease's Clausius said he was more positive on the long range tankers with an imbalance seen in global refining capacity, which is expected to see demand for these tankers swell.
"There is a disconnect in the market with the Medium Range tankers outperforming Long Range I and Long Range II," he said, adding that he expected to see a rearrangement in the freight rates between the MR and LR segments.
Chinese shipyards are offering to sell vessels at discounts of more than 20 percent as builders look to protect market share from higher quality Asian rivals and stay afloat amid a wave of consolidation, industry sources said.
Rock bottom freight rates, slowing economic growth and an oversupply of ships have forced maritime firms to cancel or delay hundreds of new orders, leaving yards especially in China with unwanted vessels for sale.
As many as half of China's 1,600 shipbuilding companies are expected to go bankrupt or be acquired by larger rivals in the next two to three years and pressure is growing to move inventory, according to senior Chinese industry executives.
"We do routinely see a 5-10 percent discount for Chinese ships. So I'm not surprised if that gap widened to 20 percent," said Alex Adamou, analyst at London-based broker firm Seasure Shipping.
"The fact is that Japanese and South Korean yards are longer established and intend to have better technology, and therefore able to build higher quality vessels."
South Korea surpassed China last year as the industry's most sought after shipbuilder, as owners preferred more advanced and fuel-efficient vessels to the "cookie-cutter" dry bulk carriers and tankers that Chinese builders are known for.
SALE NOTED LAST WEEK
China's Jinhai Heavy Industry resold a 79,000 deadweight-tonne panamax ship at around $23.5 million in the last week, brokers said, more than 20 percent lower than the $30-31 million Japanese shipyards are offering for similar vessels, and less than $26 million from South Korean builders.
But overall sales by Chinese yards have been difficult as struggling shipowners seek quality vessels to offset rising maintenance and fuel costs. The benchmark Baltic Exchange's dry freight index has fallen more than 45 percent so far this year.
"In general, the older designs of Chinese-built vessels use more steel and are deeper than Japanese vessels, leading to higher fuel consumption," said Frode Morkedal, analyst with broker firm RS Platou Markets.
Only the largest Chinese shipyards such as China Shipbuilding Industry Corp, China Rongsheng Heavy Industries and Yangzijiang Shipbuilding, are expected to survive this round of consolidation.
South Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering , Hyundai Heavy Industries and Samsung Heavy Industries have benefited from the industry's move away from China's cheaper vessels.