Shipbuilding industry in South Korea - statistics and facts
The modern shipbuilding industry is dominated by East Asian countries, with South Korea and China repeatedly trying to gain the upper hand against each other. Historically, the leading country for shipbuilding was Japan in the 1950s. South Korea kicked off its entry into the industry during the 1970s, and gradually developed its shipbuilding competencies to compete with its neighboring countries for the position of leading ship manufacturer worldwide. In recent years, China was leading the global market with the backing of the Chinese government. Nevertheless, South Korea still boasted a strong presence in the world of ship manufacturing, and its major players were not merely big fish in a small pond.
How has the shipbuilding industry developed in South Korea?
The South Korean shipbuilding industry experienced two major challenges in the 21st century, during which the volume of shipbuilding orders plummeted. One was the Great Recession in the late 2000s, and the other was in the period between 2015 and 2016. Especially in the latter case, various shipbuilding companies suffered financial difficulties that necessitated drastic restructuring in order to survive. The main reason for volatility in the shipbuilding market can be attributed to fluctuations in oil prices per barrel. Oil prices also significantly decreased during this time, which impacted the demand for ships that helped transport such materials. Additionally, the South Korean shipbuilding industry was suffering from a surplus of supply in terms of ship producers. In particular, there was an influx of small-scale businesses newly entering the market, many of which did not survive past the 2015/16 crisis.
What is it like working in the shipbuilding industry?
Another defining trait of the shipbuilding industry is the sheer scale of construction. Contemporary shipbuilding methods comprise of building up the ship in smaller blocks, which are then combined at the shipyard. Even though precautions were taken, unfortunate incidents still occur every now and then. It did not matter how experienced a worker was when it came to accidents, and there were concerted efforts to analyze and improve workplace safety.
What does the future hold for South Korea's shipbuilding industry?
The shipbuilding industry is a major economic sector for South Korea, and its domestic leaders are also at the forefront of the global shipbuilding scene. In recent times, there were various trials and tribulations that shipbuilders had to navigate, due to the cyclical nature of the industry as well as its close ties to oil prices. As the world focuses on tackling climate change and moves away from crude oil to more environmentally friendly alternatives, it falls upon shipbuilding companies to properly react to such paradigm shifts and maintain their businesses.
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