By Kong Dechen, People's Daily
China delivered outstanding shipbuilding performance last year, with output, new, and holding orders accounting for 45.2 percent, 55.2 percent, and 49.0 percent of the world's total, respectively. All ranked first globally.
Chinese shipbuilders received 55 orders for liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers in 2022, accounting for more than 30 percent of the world's total, a record high for the country, which demonstrated the country's capability in high-end shipbuilding.
"This achievement broke the monopoly of shipbuilders in some countries in LNG carriers building and kicked off a new phase of global competition in the sector," said Li Yanqing, secretary-general of the China Association of the National Shipbuilding Industry (CANSI).
South Korea has long possessed a dominating position in the global LNG carrier market. The situation was changed by Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of China's largest shipbuilding company China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited (CSSC), which delivered China's first homegrown large LNG carrier in 2008.
Ever since, China's shipbuilders of LNG carriers have embraced constant development and gradually narrowed the gap between them and their global competitors.
LNG tank ships are considered a product featuring high technologies, high manufacturing difficulties, and high added value. They are dubbed as one of the three "pearls" on the crown of shipbuilding together with aircraft carriers and large cruise ships.
According to an employee with Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co., Ltd., LNG tanker manufacturing is a technology- and capital-intensive industry, which tests the comprehensive capability of manufacturers.
Safety comes first in the designing and building of LNG carriers. Li told People's Daily that building an LNG carrier is as difficult as building an aircraft carrier.
"In particular, the scaffold system, which has direct contact with the LNG that's as cold as minus 163 degrees Celsius, poses the major technical difficulty in building large LNG carriers," he explained.
LNG carriers must meet very high safety standards as they carry tens of thousands of tons of LNG on the sea for thousands of kilometers.
"Leakages in the tank lead to ruptures of the steel body of the carrier. If the leaking LNG gasifies rapidly, there would be explosions. Therefore, no mistake is allowed in the designing and manufacturing of LNG carriers," Li said.
Since the beginning of 2022, the demand for LNG carriers has soared in the global market, and the emerging shipbuilding market has seen a surge in LNG carrier orders, which has provided opportunities for eligible Chinese shipbuilders to enter the LNG carrier construction market.
Last year, China saw the rise of multiple industrial clusters of LNG carrier manufacturing led by Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co., Ltd., Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company, Jiangnan Shipyard (Group) Co., Ltd., and Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Group.
Chinese shipbuilders have become important participants in the field of global energy transportation, Li said.
The surging orders for LNG carriers have brought China's LNG shipbuilding industry to a key period featuring accelerated development.
It is learned that the production of Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding has been scheduled until 2028.
"The decision to expand capacity, flexible marketing strategies, and solid technological foundation are the basis for Chinese shipbuilders to have entered the marine LNG transport market and expanded their shares," Li told People's Daily, adding that faster delivery and new orders remain important for Chinese shipbuilders to further expand their market, no matter how the market develops this year.
At present and in the near future, the Chinese shipbuilding industry should leverage China's resources and the international division of labor to establish its advantages in technology, industrial development, management, and market in the building of LNG carriers and other gas carriers.