From cruise ships and yachts to tankers and vessels constructed for the military, these days modern ship builders are developing increasingly sophisticated systems to contend with one of the world’s most hazardous and demanding environment – the ocean. With a long history stretching right across the world, ship building remains one of the most important services operating within the global maritime sector.
So what is ship building? And why is it such an important component of the maritime industry?
What is Ship Building?
As the name suggests, ship building is the construction of marine vessels for use in the operational processes and procedures that exist within the maritime sector.
Ship building has a long and colourful history, going back thousands of years right across the world. The first known ocean-going vessels were constructed by Austronesian people around 3000BC. There is also evidence to suggest that hull construction dates back to Ancient Egypt in 3100BC – some Egyptian pottery even shows designs for boats and shipping dating 4000BC.
These days, the ship building industry deals predominantly with the production of larger vessels intended for the merchant fleet, including cargo and passenger transport and the offshore energy industry. As well as the construction of new builds, the ship building industry also deals with the products and services supplied for the conversion, retrofitting and maintenance of vessels and ships.
The three main ship building nations in this day and age are China, Japan and South Korea – China engineered 22.3 million gross tonnes of ships in 2019. Europe has seen a significant fall in ship building over the past few decades, although it is still a dynamic hub for commercial ship building with over 150 ship yards employing roughly 120,000 people. Retaining around 6% of the global market share in terms of tonnage, sophisticated vessels including cruise ships, ferries, luxury yachts and naval vessels are the main focus of the ship building sector in Europe.
Why is Ship Building Still Important?
Although ship building and maritime transportation are very different sectors, the two industries are closely related and have a dependency on the success and performance of international markets and trade.
Essentially, the global shipping sector is supported by the maritime sector, which currently transports roughly 90% of the world’s trade every year. A crucial component in the global economy, the shipping and transportation sector is built on the construction of large ships and vessels. So without ship building services, the productivity, efficiency and profitability of the maritime sector would grind to a halt. However, the ship building industry also relies on the success of the maritime industry to continue its operations.
Intrinsically linked, the ship building sector essentially plays a major role in the success of the global economy. So aside from the construction of vessels, what other services does the ship building sector offer?
- Engineering & consultancy – As well as the preliminary design of a vessel, professional ship building businesses quite often manage and oversee the actual construction and engineering of the ship itself. This includes consultancy services which advise and guide the project using a combination of project management and client specifications.
- Conversion services – Ship building often handles the conversion, refit and retrofitting of existing vessels, including suggesting a suitable dock and/or shipyard, developing the best, most forward-thinking design for the ship, identifying the necessary infrastructure and deploying the right team to get the job done.
- Repairs & maintenance – As the name suggests, the ship building sector is also tasked with the maintenance and necessary repairs of vessels operating within the industry.
The Future of Ship Building
The ship building sector has evolved dramatically in recent years. This is largely due to an increased demand for better operational efficiencies while also minimising environmental impacts, which is ultimately driving major shifts in the sector and its uptake of new technologies and ideas.
- Environmentally friendly practices – From zero carbon shipping and green retrofitting to ditching single-use plastic, the ship building sector is currently investing in more environmentally sustainable practices for the purpose of minimising the industry’s impact on our planet.
- Proactive maintenance & condition monitoring – The goal of proactive maintenance is to address any problems before they worsen and cause a disruption. Modern proactive processes and procedures within the maritime sector, such as condition monitoring, use data analytics to uncover insights and forecast future trends. As a result, companies and organisations operating in the sector can make data-driven decisions that maximise productivity and profitability.
- Improved fuel efficiency – The maritime sector carries more than 90% of all global trade every year. The advancement of marine-centric technology and implementation of proactive maintenance protocols now mean vessels benefit from improved fuel efficiency which is better for both operational productivity and the environment.
From cruise ships and yachts to tankers and military vessels, today’s ship builders are developing increasingly sophisticated and advanced technologies to contend with one of the world’s most dangerous and demanding environments – the ocean. So what is ship building? And why is it such an important service within the maritime industry?
These days, the ship building sector focuses mostly on the construction of bigger ships for merchant fleets, the services of which include the transportation of goods and passengers as well as support for the offshore sector. In addition to the construction of new builds, the ship building industry also deals with the provision of goods and services for the conversion, retrofitting, refitting and overall maintenance of large and small vessels alike.
With a long history stretching right across the globe, today ship building remains one of the most important services operating within the maritime industry.
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