Shipping is an integral component of global trade and commerce. It deals with nearly 90% of all goods transported in one form or the other.
The types of goods shipped on a daily basis comprise a wide spectrum from frozen or fresh food products to ores, oil, metals, and factory parts. It is important to realize that almost every industry has a direct or indirect dependence on the shipping sector.
The global maritime goods transportation industry is worth trillions of dollars and its value is gradually increasing at a steady rate.
Despite the shipping sector has had its fair shares of ups and downs due to economic crises and the financially unstable nature of the industry, the global demand appears set to grow at a healthy rate.
However, shipping hinges on the presence of ships and vessels capable of undertaking voyages with varying goods. Constructing ships is a time-consuming process that can take anywhere upwards of 1.5 years for the medium to large vessels. Thus, no matter the robustness of the maritime transport industry, the shipbuilding sector controls and restricts trade depending on the number of vessels constructed.
Another important area in which shipbuilding plays a major role is in the construction of cruise liners and pleasure vessels. Several countries around the globe have such facilities open to both residents and tourists from around the world. It supplements the tourism and coastal industry of various nations. For example, India which is a nation that had no prior cruise or pleasure vessel history has recently launched cruises along its coast in an attempt to boost the economy. Thus, we can see that passenger vessel construction is as important as the commercial cargo shipbuilding industry.
In this article, we will look at the global top shipbuilding companies and other major shipbuilders. The listing and ranking are from numerous standard shipping references, including the Lloyd’s Register which is an internationally accepted source for all types of rankings related to the maritime sector.
However, due to the volatile nature of the industry, putting a quantitative figure on a shipbuilding company comes with its own set of challenges.
In most cases, the most recent revenue figures have been used as the parameter for qualifying a shipbuilder as large.
The other major shipbuilders have experience and goodwill, both of which are important in this industry. For instance, the shipyards of Damen (Netherlands) and Harland & Wolff (Northern Ireland) enjoy enormous goodwill amongst prominent ship operators and continue to be the sole manufacturers for some established shipping lines.
Keeping in mind the various factors weighing in on the profitability of a shipyard, none of the lists given below is ranked in any order, and the only list out companies in the relevant section.
Top Ship Builders Around the Globe
1. Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI)
Ulsan, South Korea
2016 Revenue – USD 33.89 billion
One of the largest shipbuilding companies in the world, HHI is based out of Ulsan, South Korea. It was founded as the heavy industries division of the Hyundai group but was later made into its own company that dealt in shipbuilding, electrical systems, construction, and robotics. Its core manufacturing division focuses on vessels such as crude oil tankers, VLCC ships, container vessels, oil and natural gas drilling ships, LNG carriers, LPG carriers, VLGC ships, and naval warships. In addition to shipbuilding, the company also has interests in offshore technologies and in the oil and gas sector. Talks are currently underway for a planned merger of HHI with another prominent shipbuilding company- Daewoo Ship Builders. The initial planning phase was concluded by the end of 2019, and the final formalities will be completed by 2021.
2. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME)
Seoul, South Korea
2016 Revenue – USD 10.98 billion
Considered to be one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the world, it is part of the “Big Three” of South Korean shipbuilding. It is a key manufacturer for several shipping lines including Maersk, and also deals in naval technology. DSME has built warships and submarines for the navies of Indonesia and the United Kingdom. Prior to dissolution, it had begun exporting submarines to several other nations. It also specialized in building LNG carriers, icebreakers, container vessels etc. Due to mismanagement and allegations of fraud, Daewoo eventually ran bankrupt but was bailed out by the government in 2017. Ongoing talks of a merger with HHI are being carried out to consolidate the company assets and is in the final phase of completion.
3. Samsung Heavy Industries
Geoje, South Korea
2016 Revenue – USD 8.98 billion
Samsung Heavy Industries is one of the largest shipbuilders in the world and is part of the “Big Three” of South Korean shipbuilding alongside HHI and DSME. It is run as a heavy industries division of the Samsung Group. It deals with building some of the largest ships in the world including LNG vessels, special purpose ships, oil drilling ships, Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels, large container vessels, and artic tankers. The company also deals in oil and gas-related offshore technology and engineering. It also produces limited naval warships for South Korea alongside the other 2 major shipbuilders in the region. It currently operates 8 total docks (3 dry and 5 floatings) in addition to facilities for other heavy industries.
4. STX Offshore and Shipbuilding
Jinhae, South Korea
2016 Revenue – USD 16.96 billion
STX is a South Korean shipbuilding company with a wide global presence spanning most parts of Asia and several countries in Europe. It runs and operates shipyards in Europe through STX Europe and was Europe’s second-largest shipbuilding firm. The company’s operations in South Korea are based out of two main shipyards at Busan and Changwon. Over 40 years, STX has built 700 plus ships of various types. The company specializes in LNG and LPG carriers, container vessels, tankers, FPSO vessels, and drilling ships. STX Europe began divesting assets from 2012 onwards facing financial problems. It primarily operated Cruises & Ferries, Offshore vessels, and other operations through 15 shipyards across Europe and in Brazil. Following the dissolution of the corporation, STX Europe was completed divested and filed for bankruptcy in 2017.
5. Imabari Shipbuilding
2016 Revenue – USD 3.43 billion
One of the largest major Japanese shipyards, Imabari shipbuilding deals with the construction, repair, maintenance, and outfitting of ships built in the region. It is Japan’s largest shipbuilder in terms of tonnage and has numerous construction and repair facilities. In 2016, Imabari had six times the tonnage of its nearest competitor in Japan- Mitsubishi. It had the fourth largest market share behind the other largest shipbuilding companies based in China and South Korea. Imabari has 9 shipbuilding and maintenance yards along with a new dry dock capable of handling ultra-large container ships. It also has offices in Tokyo and Amsterdam to handle the marketing and operations of the company. It has acquired several of its regional competitors in a bid to consolidate its position.
6. Fincantieri S.p.A.
2018 Revenue – USD 6.45 billion
Based out of Italy, Fincantieri is the largest shipbuilding company in Europe. With numerous shipyards in Italy, it handles both commercial and military vessel construction. It has acquired several other large shipbuilders in a recent global expansion effort. The company currently operates yards of the shipbuilding firm Vard and has added 5 shipyards across Europe to its manufacturing and assembly assets. In addition, it has also acquired The Manitowoc Company in the US and builds vessels for the US Coast Guard and Navy. Fincantieri bought out 50% of the now-dissolved STX France (part of the STX Europe Corporation) in 2018 and has expanded its European presence. It has also established services in the US for shipbuilding in the region.
7. JSC United Shipbuilding Corporation
2017 Revenue – USD 5.58 billion
The youngest of the shipbuilding companies in this list, JSC United is a wholly Russian state-owned company that deals in shipbuilding and auxiliary services such as repair and maintenance. It was created in 2007 in an effort to bolster the shipbuilding economy of Russia using military shipyards and advanced technology in an effort to manufacture commercial passenger and goods vessels. It has a presence in Europe through the now divested stock of the STX Corporation (Finland Cruises division). Its main construction and repair subsidiaries are spread across 3 locations in Russia- Vladivostok (Far East), Severodvinsk (Northern) and St. Petersburg (Western). Each subsidiary handles and manages the numerous shipyards JSC operates. In addition, it has also acquired several other companies from Europe that deal in the marine and construction industry.
8. China Shipbuilding Group (CSG)
Recent shipbuilding revenue unavailable
Formed in 2019 by the merger of China’s 2 largest shipbuilding companies- China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), thus making it the largest shipbuilding company in the world. Due to the recent formation of the company, there is no available revenue date for CSG. CSSC and CSIC specialize in the construction and maintenance of ships built across the nation. With operations in the North and West supervised by the divisions of CSIC, operations of the South and East are carried out by CSSC. The companies deal in building LNG carriers, VLCC vessels, and military warships. Alongside commercial vessels, military ships are a major source of revenue due to China’s ever-expanding naval fleet. The group also focuses on other shipping related services such as machinery and equipment manufacture. Dalian Shipbuilding Company is the largest shipbuilding yard in China and is a part of the CSIC.
Other Major Ship Building Firms
1. Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI)
2016 Revenue – USD 6.59 billion
SHI is a primarily Heavy Industry company dealing in many areas including weaponry, military application technology and shipbuilding. It deals with building bulk carriers and operates a single dock shipyard at Oshima. The shipyard supplies vessels to Europe and other parts of Asia. Despite the relatively small size of the shipyard and auxiliary services, Sumitomo is able to build and launch nearly 40 vessels every year, due to technological advancements and state of the art machinery and equipment.
2. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI)
2019 Revenue – USD 38.1 billion (consolidated heavy industries revenue)
Part of the international Mitsubishi conglomerate, MHI has been the primary marine construction unit for the parent company and primarily works out of Japanese shipyards. It handles the construction of military warships, commercial vessels, passenger cruise ships, and LNG carriers. The company is currently in talks to divest its shipyard at Koyagi and withdraw from the LNG carrier construction industry. The company has two subsidiaries that deal with different aspects of shipbuilding and the auxiliary industries. Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co. handles construction, outfitting, and technologies to be integrated into ships through the yards at Yokohama, Nagasaki, and Shimonoseki. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Marine Structure Co. handles the building of large and ultra-large vessels and other marine structures.
3. Mazagon Dock Limited
2019 Revenue – USD 740 million
Based out of Mumbai, Mazagon Docks is a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Indian government that primarily deals with building and maintaining military vessels for the Indian Navy. It has extensive expertise in constructing warships and submarines that have been part of the indigenisation drive of the Navy. In addition to military ships, Mazagon Docks also construct offshore vessels, drilling platforms, tankers, bulk carriers, cargo carriers, ferries, and other passenger vessels.
4. Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL)
2019 Revenue – USD 510 million
As the largest shipbuilder in India, CSL predominantly specializes in offshore vessels and oil tankers. It builds and tests aircraft carriers for India as it has the largest yard in the nation. CSL also builds numerous vessels for other countries in Europe, South America, and the Middle East. It also runs repair facilities for the Indian Coast Guard, conducts maintenance and repair operations for the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India (ONGC), and builds Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs) for various companies around the world.
5. Harland and Wolff
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Recent shipbuilding revenue unavailable
Based in Ireland, the H&W shipbuilding group has considerable expertise in the area of shipbuilding, repair, and maintenance. It’s most famous projects to date include some of the largest cruise liners ever built. It serves as a primary provider for the White Star Line that deals in passenger cruises and luxury ferries. Alongside commercial shipbuilding, Harland and Wolff also handle the construction and testing of ships for the Royal British Navy. Some of the ships built by the company include the 3 Olympic class ships of the early 1900s, most famous of which was the RMS Titanic. In addition, it has built numerous ships for P&O, that was active up until 2006, and the Carnival Corporation that primarily deals in cruise vessels. In recent times, the company has focused on renewable energy due to its waning shipbuilding division.
6. Damen Shipyards Group
South Holland, Netherlands
2015 Revenue – USD 2.1 billion
Damen Shipbuilders is a Dutch shipbuilding and defence company with a global presence in over 120 countries. It runs 50 shipyards and has partnerships with local shipbuilding companies in many nations. It runs 32 shipbuilding yards and 15 repair and maintenance yards. Its top clients include the United States Coast Guard, Jamaican Defence Forces, Hong Kong Marine Police, and United Kingdom Navy that currently operate several classes of ships built by the Damen Group. In addition, it is also a major shipbuilder for the Dutch navy. Along with shipbuilding and repair activities, it is also concerned with dredging and related marine services. Other than warships, its shipyards build and outfit freighters including container vessels, tankers, cargo ships, and heavy lift vessels (HGVs). It also has experience in constructing passenger vessels such as ferries and yachts.
7. BAE Systems Maritime – Naval Ships
Scotland, United Kingdom
2010 Revenue – USD 1.43 billion
One of the major shipbuilders in Europe, BAE Systems Maritime is a subsidiary of BAE Systems that focuses solely on military and naval products. In addition to building warships, it deals in the integration of weaponry, missile systems, and other advanced military technology. It is the largest shipbuilder in the UK and operates several docks and yards that undertake the bulk of naval construction. Its clients include the navies of several countries in the Middle East, Far East, Americas, and Australia. It has merged with several other British shipbuilding companies in an effort to retain its spot as one of the largest complex warship builders in the world.
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Ajay Menon is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, with an integrated major in Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture. Besides writing, he balances chess and works out tunes on his keyboard during his free time.