An exploration of the circumstances and changes in the shipbuilding industry in the last decades
Conference Paper Restricted
4-6 July 2016
The shipbuilding industry has experienced significant changes over the course of the last century. Traditional ship building nations such as the UK and USA, followed by a flourishing industry in Europe, were gradually replaced by China, Japan and South Korea by the end of the 20th century. The reasons for the pronounced shift to the Far East and Asia over the last decades have been several and diverse. Currently, about 85% of the shipbuilding industry is concentrated in the three nations mentioned previously and often the quality of new builds post the shift to the Far East and Asia has been questioned. The main objective of this paper is to investigate the circumstances and changes that have taken place in the ship building industry in the past decades and explore their impact, if any, on ship safety.
This study presents the findings of one pilot data collection (questionnaire) study which involved a pool of experts (n=30) with shipbuilding and operational experience, both from ship-owners and classification societies. The questionnaire investigated four main topics: Quality of new buildings in China, Europe, Japan and South Korea, quality of ships in operation (e.g. main failure mechanisms, failure modes, etc.), counterfeit equipment and, last but not the least, general attitude towards EC Regulation 391/2009 on common rules and standards for ship inspections and survey organisations.
The results of the study express that the shift towards Japan (80s), South Korea (90s) and China (2000s) is mainly due to different, and sometimes cheaper services and faster production of new builds. Moreover, due to the increased size of new ships, ship-owners have been seeking shipyards capable of accommodating large structures; shipyards that are mainly located in Asian countries. However, the general perceptions by operators and surveyors is that the quality of new constructions with respect to design, know-how, material, labour conditions, quality control and workforce specifications has not really deteriorated in the last decades. While the financial crisis seems not to have played a leading role in the manufacturing quality of the shipbuilding process, other factors which could have a negative influence on the safety of the vessel once in operation, were also investigated.