Shipbuilding fever catches on in China

Agence France Presse

London, January 30:

China is rushing to build vessels to ship home the huge amounts of commodities its booming economy demands, amid reports it is also constructing military bases to help safeguard its shipments of oil.

“China is building ships as fast as it can,” said Dennis Petropoulos, an analyst for British shipbroker Braemar Seascope. “It would like to build more and there are people in there opening shipyards, and there are projects to increase shipbuilding capacity, but those projects take time and will not come on stream for three to five years.”

The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned earlier this month that the world’s ship-building yards were booked up for years in advance.

“China will move its cargoes on any ships it can,” Petropolous said. “There are projects to increase capacity in China, definitely, because South Korea and Japan cannot increase their capacity. “Shipyards in Korea and Japan are booked out until 2007 and maybe a good chunk of 2008 has been allocated. Chinese shipyards are booked out until 2007 but not a large chunk of 2008 has been allocated,” he added.

China has meanwhile launched a plan to double its current port capacity by 2010 by strategically developing facilities in the Bohai Rim and the Yangtze River and Pearl River deltas, state media reported last month.

The blueprint adopted by the State Council, or China’s cabinet, said the three port areas would focus mainly on containers, iron ore, crude oil and coal.

China’s booming economy expanded 9.5 per cent last year after 9.3 per cent in 2003, according to official data published last week.

The fourth quarter alone showed growth steaming ahead at 9.5 per cent year-on-year, up from 9.1 per cent in the previous three months despite Beijing’s efforts to cool the economy.

Analysts meanwhile said that Chinese growth would continue to win strong support from the country’s thirst for imported raw materials.

“The Chinese authorities are thinking, let’s put this (material) on our own ships rather than chartering other people’s ships”, an industry source told AFP.