China Charts Course Into LNG Shipbuilding

From Global Times

By Geoffrey Murray

A huge upsurge in use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an energy source is generating demand for a new generation of specialized ships, with China competing hard with Japan, South Korea and even India to build them.

Japan is already the world’s largest LNG importer after abandoning the nuclear option following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. China and India are also boosting imports; so, global LNG shipments are forecast to grow from the figure of 200 million tons in 2010 to around 360 million tons by 2020.

There are now an estimated 365 LNG carriers on the high seas and there’s hardly a single one that is not in constant use. At least another 175 carriers, and maybe even more, will likely be ordered soon.

That’s welcome for major shipbuilding nations facing a slowdown in orders for more conventional vessels.

LNG ships are complicated to build and only a handful of shipyards in the world currently possess the necessary expertise. It’s worth making the effort however, as a single ship costs around $195 million, at least?double a regular vessel.

One of the most significant developments has been China’s emergence. In 2010, it passed South Korea to become the top shipbuilder in terms of number of vessels produced. Increasingly, quality has been added to quantity.

Chinese yards initially struggled to master the technology for building LNG carriers, but have now done so and, last year, achieved an important milestone by winning the first overseas order.?

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