Analysis: China's shipyards founder as building boom ends

Wed May 2, 2012 7:36pm EDT
 
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By Ruby Lian and Alison Leung

YUEQING, China (Reuters) - Welder Zhang fires up his blow torch and looks up at the towering, 8,800-tonnes oil tanker that is likely to be his last job at China's privately owned Qiligang Shipbuilding Co.

Barring a miracle, the 50-year-old will soon join the thousands of unemployed shipbuilders who have fallen victim to the end of China's maritime boom and the long-awaited consolidation of its more than 1,600 shipbuilding companies.

Four years into one of the worst downturns to afflict the global shipping industry, hundreds of small to mid-sized shipyards are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy as foreign orders dwindle and domestic lenders slash credit.

"The building of this ship is almost done, and we don't expect to have any new jobs soon," said Zhang, who asked to be identified by one name.

"We used to work 30 days a month, but now we work only 10 to 20 days because not many ships are being built. Many workers have moved on to other jobs."

Qiligang Shipbuilding is one of several troubled firms in the eastern coastal Zhejiang province, the world's largest manufacturing base for small to medium-sized dry docks.

According to local media, around 80 percent of shipyards in Zhejiang have either suspended production or are operating at half their capacity.

"The grass is growing high in many yards that have closed due to a lack of orders," said Zhang Shouguo, secretary general of industry group the China Shipowners' Association.   Continued...

 
An employee rides a bicycle past a nearly completed ship at China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) Longxue shipbuilding, in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou November 13, 2011. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu