Japanese shipyards have seen their market share for
tankers declining from 46 % in September 1998 to 38 % in 1999 down to 21
% in 2000.
For containerships, figures for the same period
represent a decline from 25 % to 12 % finishing at 8 %. Korea by
comparison had 31 % in 1998 and finished year 2000 with 63 %. These
losses of market share have added equally to financial difficulties. The
decline of newbuilding prices combined with the influence of the strong
yen had a hard impact on the financial performance of the major ship
exporters in Japan who all reported losses in their results announced
for the first six months of fiscal 2000 with the exception of Hitachi
and NKK which however had posted losses in 1999.
But Japanese yards nonetheless persisted in their
efforts to improve their competitive performance. Mitsubishi H.I. and
Sumitomo have announced new plans for workforce reductions. Mitsubishi
has also decided to specialise its four production sites.
Japanese shipbuilders are also well aware of the need
to further integrate their production scale on a nation-wide basis in
the face of the competition from the giants of Korea.
In April of 1999, the Japanese central government
established a commission to consider the future of shipbuilding in
Japan. Their report, published in August 1999, made specific
recommendations on the need for shipyard specialisation, combined with a
reduction and rationalisation of production into three or four major
groups instead of the seven existing today.
Since the publication of the commission's report,
discussion has effectively started with regrouping of Kawasaki - Mitsui
- IHI as one group, NKK - Hitachi as another, while Mitsubishi and
Sumitomo are expected to remain alone. However until now, no concrete
arrangements have yet been made. It seems as if the principal difficulty
rests in the structure of the large industrial groups. They have to
de-consolidate their activities in the shipbuilding sector before being
able to achieve the regroupings now under consideration. Kawasaki H.I.
has at least announced that they will spin off the shipbuilding division
as a stand alone company during 2001.
Japan could thus proceed with regrouping their
construction sites, closing some docks, reopening others which have been
de-activated in response to the two previous crisis periods in the
shipbuilding industry, experienced in the seventies and the eighties in
order to compensate the closures of those affected yards and to increase
the production and productivity of the new yards.
The Japanese Shipbuilders Association has predicted
that the demand for newbuilding could decline in the next few years and
this could accelerate the trend towards the regrouping of the Japanese