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29 November 2021 The on-line newspaper devoted to the world of transports 15:02 GMT+1

The Shipbuilding Market in 2001

Whereas the year 2000 was exceptional, 2001 despite some highlights was a year of contrasts:

1. The volume of new orders is down considerably with about 36.5 million gross tons as compared to 46.1 million gt last year.

2. This reduced volume of orders has brought to an end the increase in prices which occurred in 2000; as from mid 2001 there has been a drop sometimes quite sharp despite the importance of the orderbook world-wide.

3. The level of the orderbook reached in the 2nd quarter of 2001 was unprecedented with over 75,7 million gt and roughly maintained until the end of the year, representing an annual growth of about 15 %.

4. A certain stability still prevails between the various shipbuilding countries. Korea remains in top position with over 30 million gt on order, followed by Japan with over 20 million gt. Europe and China are in third and fourth place with about 8.5 million and 7.4 million gt respectively.

5. European shipyards were unable to get the reintroduction of subsidies from their respective official bodies, which were stopped last year, whereas the orders of specialised ships were scarce this year, with the notable exception of LNG carriers which were taken up essentially by Korean and Japanese shipyards.

In October 2000 the IMF announced a reduced growth for 2001 but the prospects remained positive.

IMF forecasts - 1

Unfortunately these economic forecasts have continuously been lowered. The IMF published successively 3.2 % in May 2001, then 2.6 % in October 2001, then again had to readjust its figures taking into account the tragic events of September 11th.

After an exceptional world growth of 4.7 % in 2000, 2001 was also an outstanding year but at the other end of the scale with a growth of only 2.4 %, one of the lowest levels over the last ten years

IMF forecasts - 2

The growth of world trade in volume has slowed down dramatically to virtually nothing in 2001, as compared to an increase of over 12 % in 2000.

Freight rates in the three most important sectors of shipping - oil, dry bulk, and containers - after having been very strong in 2000, have fallen sharply. Average earnings in the oil sector show a certain resistance due to the tightening of quality constraints being adopted by oil companies. Tankers have to meet stricter standards and older ships are being discarded.

Whilst the pace of orders remained strong during the first half, the uncertainty in short-term prospects and a significant deterioration in freight rates meant that owners during the summer started deserting the newbuilding market


freight rates evolution 
The orders
Whilst the pace of orders remained strong during the first half, the uncertainty in short-term prospects and a significant deterioration in freight rates meant that owners during the summer started deserting the newbuilding market.

new orders

Prices which had increased throughout 2000, while still remaining relatively attractive since they were below levels that were prevalent before the Asian crisis of 1997-1998, were not sufficient to entice potential buyers looking to preserve their cash-flow and who decided to postpone their investments to a later date.

The world orderbook after having outpaced the 75 million gross ton mark in June 2001, stabilised until the end of the year.

orders by quarter


world orderbook

The geographical breakdown in orders remains relatively constant, whereas the majority of the increase seen last year went to Korea.

However the breakdown in ships’ types has changed. In 2000 the three principal newbuilding cycles, that of tankers, bulk carriers, and containerships, followed the same pattern as illustrated in the graph of ‘Percentages of ships on order over existing fleet’.

percentage order / active fleet

This graph illustrates that the dry bulk carrier and containership cycles started a little earlier (early 1998) than that of tankers (early 1999) and hit their historic highs at the start of 2001 with respectively 16 % for dry bulk carriers and significantly more for containerships with 28 %. The bend in these two curves right from the start of 2001 indicated already a certain apprehension and a real reduction in the orders for dry bulk carriers and containerships. Tonnage of dry bulk carriers on order declined from 39.5 to 25.2 million dwt and that of containerships remained around 21 million dwt.

The orderbook for tankers continued to rise to reach a figure of 22 % of the existing fleet thus surpassing the previous historic record of 17 % in 1991. The tonnage of tankers on order increased in 2001 and went from 46.1 to 64.6 million dwt. This prolongation of the tanker cycle applies particularly to the categories between 35,000 and 120,000 dwt.

Specialised tonnage, with the exception of LNG carriers, has seen new orders declining considerably.

Cruise ship operators which made massive investments in 1999 and to a lesser extent in 2000, only made a single new order in 2001.

The LNG carriers orderbook rose from 824,000 cbm in 1999 to 2,485,000 cbm in 2000 then to 4,026,700 cbm in 2001, nearly 50 % of the existing fleet. A number of these orders are speculative and driven by the prospects of a rapid development in this energy source.

standard vessels contracting
specialized vessels contracting

Shipping and Shipbuilding Markets in 2001


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