Shipbuilding refers to the building of all types of marine vessels, including cruise ships, navy ships, bulk carriers, tankers, and small offshore vessels. The shipbuilding activity is carried out in a specialised facility called the shipyard. The shipyards range from small to very large in terms of size and technical capacity. To a large extent all shipyards are capable of building multiple types of marine vessels with some of them facing space and facility restrictions to build large-sized ships. However, each shipyard has specific specialisation in building a small number of specific ship types. Depending on type and size, it may take from a few months to couple of years to build a marine vessel.
The discipline of shipbuilding and ship repairs referred to as “naval architecture”, that deals with design, construction, operations and maintenance of marine vessels. The discipline monitors all stages of the life of a marine vessel right from the initial designing to advanced design, actual construction, testing, operations, and maintenance as well as launching and dry-docking of the vessels.
Shipbuilding requires high level of technical expertise and a huge capital expenditure. As a result, only a limited number of countries in the world have necessary technical expertise and resources for building large-sized ships. As per the latest (2011) figures, South Korea is the leading shipbuilding nation in the world with a market share of 37.45%, followed by Japan and China. The combined market share of European nations is just around 4%, while outputs of the US and rest of the world has fallen sharply in the last decade.
South Korea maintains its dominant position in the production of advanced high-tech marine vessels that include giant container ships, super tankers, LNG carriers, drill ships, and cruise liners. The country has the largest shipyard in the world operated by Hyundai Heavy Industries, which alone has captured more than 15% share of the world’s shipbuilding market. Other renowned shipbuilding companies in South Korea are Samsung Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, and STX Shipbuilding.
China shipbuilding industry has been making rapid progress due to huge investments in the sector and its competitive price strategy, challenging the dominant positions of South Korea and Japan. For a brief period it even overtook South Korea during the global financial crisis of 2008. The shipbuilding industry in Japan seems to be on decline. The country lost its number one position to South Korea in 2003.
Modern Shipbuilding Techniques
Shipbuilding activity has been carried out by humans for thousands of years, with inventions of new techniques taking place at different times. Modern shipbuilding techniques refers to the best available technology and processes appropriate to advancing the-state-of-the-art of shipyards. The technique makes best possible use of resources and materials in shipbuilding to make it fast, safe and secure. One such example is use of specialised steels such as ABS steels instead of welded steel to achieve the optimal performance of ships. Modern shipbuilding techniques is also making considerable use of prefabricated sections to create superstructures elsewhere and transport it to building docks for assembling. The introduction of specialised discipline called “naval architecture” has contributed in the significant improvement in design, durability, speed, and ease in maneuvering of the ships.