Shipbuilding: Sink or swim

The Economist: Full print edition Shipbuilding: Sink or swim A deluge of new ships pours into a drowning industry
LIKE unwelcome guests who will not leave, 453 container ships, 11% of global capacity, now float outside the harbours of Hong Kong, Singapore and other South-East Asian ports. They are unwanted by their hosts as well as their customers. In recent days China has quietly let it be known that it wants to rid its territorial waters of these nautical squatters.
Only five years ago huge demand from China meant that all these ships, and more, were desperately needed. This had a dramatic impact first on shipping rates, and then on supply (see chart). Between the end of 2006 and July 2008, shipyards received enough commissions to double the world’s fleet. Now these new ships-more than 9,000 vessels-are taking to the water just as demand has collapsed. The world is awash with ships. …


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