Which are the heavyweights of Japanese shipbuilding?Imabari Shipbuilding and Japan Marine United Corporation have the highest gross tonnage output, dominating the cargo vessel market, even more so, since the two companies established Nihon Shipyard as a joint venture in January 2021. Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Mitsui E&S, and Namura Shipbuilding are among the largest listed shipbuilders focusing on the commercial sector. In October 2021, Mitsui E&S restructured its shipbuilding business, selling its naval branch to defense supplier Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and half of its merchant ship business to Tsuneishi Shipbuilding. Although MHI has other core businesses, the company remains influential in the commercial ship sector, for which MHI allied with Oshima Shipbuilding. Flagship projects of the industry are zero-emission ships, autonomous vessels, and IoT (Internet of Things) solutions, often realized in joint developments.
Bridging the path to carbon-neutralityFor achieving carbon neutrality in the maritime industry, manufacturers and the government spend billions of Japanese yen on research and development of next-generation propulsion systems. Current large vessel projects include ships propelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG), liquefied hydrogen, and ammonia. The first LNG-propelled vessels have already been launched.
Despite LNG not being carbon-neutral, its combustion promises to emit fewer toxic exhausts than conventional fuel oil. Additionally, LNG can reduce the burden on the climate, if methane slips are avoided. However, marine fuels need quasi carbon-neutral 'green' hydrogen to achieve emission targets.