NAME  DATE 2013-10-22
 TITLE Signs of recovery in shipbuilding industry
Expectations are elevating that the long-stagnant shipbuilding industry may enjoy an upturn amid an increasing amount of commercial vessel orders and the rise of freight charges.

Industry observers, however, remained discreet and refrained from fully embracing the optimistic view.

According to the Korea Maritime Institute, the Baltic Dry Index, which indicates the freight fee level of bulk carriers, recorded 1,215 last month 72.8 percent up from the same period last year.

The freight fee index is usually recognized as a leading indicator in the shipping and shipbuilding industry, as a rise in fees leads to a rise in ship orders.

The average cost for container ships, too, is increasing slowly yet steadily, the U.K.-based Clarkson Research said recently through its report.

The report also showed that global ship orders from January up to the end of August was 26.12 million CGT (compensated gross tonnage), 58 percent up from the same period last year.

The backlog of orders, too, has recently seen a jump and increased for two months in a row in July and August the first time in five years since the global economy plunged in 2008-2009.

Triggered by these positive indexes, some analysts recently suggested that the shipbuilding industry may be showing signs of recovery and at last exit of its years-long slump.

Further backing such optimism, the nations top three shipbuilders have so far performed above their target levels.

Top player Hyundai Heavy Industries has recorded $19.6 billion in sales as of the end of August, which is not only 40 percent up from the same period last year but also some 82 percent of its total yearly sales target.

Industry No. 2 Samsung Heavy Industries, too, has made it to $12.4 billion, which is close to its yearly sales target of $13 billion, officials said.

Industry officials, however, refrained from making premature assumptions.

An increase in cargo volume and commercial ship costs has traditionally indicated an economic recovery, but the changes are yet marginal, said an official of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.

Ship owners are aware that the average vessel cost hit a bottom and this may be an opportunity to purchase a high-performance ship at a relatively low cost, before the global economy recovers, he explained.

Only when these revitalizing factors are reflected in the actual cargo volume may we say that the shipping and shipbuilding industries have indeed taken an upturn, said a Hyundai Heavy official.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)