Manufacturing News

Shipbuilders under pressure to make industry cleaner

China should do more to raise awareness about the environmental and economic benefits of a sustainable shipbuilding industry, says the Asia region head of Lloyd's Register, one of the world's leading maritime certification organizations.

John Rowley, regional director Asia of Lloyd's Register, said it was not difficult to identify the tangible benefits that shipbuilding had brought to the people of China in recent years, but the industry could do more to contribute to the public benefit.

"Many of these actions would raise public awareness about the intangible benefits of the wider maritime industry, benefits such as safe work places, dependable cost-effective trade transport and of course a carbon-reduced footprint," Rowley told a seminar on China's shipbuilding industry, which opened Thursday in Shanghai at the World Expo 2010.

He said China had the potential to build the first fully sustainable shipbuilding industry founded within a single country, as well as the potential to lead nascent ship-recycling industry into the modern era.

China had a rich maritime history, most famously with Zheng He and his seven voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia and East Africa some 600 years ago.

In the past decade, China had again been at the center of the global maritime industry, as the nation had become the world's second biggest shipbuilder, after the Republic of Korea.

In 2009, a record 42 million deadweight tonnes (dwt) of ships slid down the slipways of China's shipyards.

"Last year, in a year when China delivered almost 35 percent of the world's new commercial fleet, the builders captured 62 percent of new orders. No one here today needs reminding that China now has both the infrastructure and perhaps more importantly the ambition to sustain a long run at the top of the ship-building ladder." said Rowley.

The Chinese shipbuilding industry also faced new rules drawn up by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and various maritime classification societies.

The IMO's newly announced Goal-Based Construction Standards for New Ships has a primary goal of ensuring new ships are designed and built to be safe, environment-friendly and with low emissions.

Tan Zuojun, general manager of China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), said at the seminar that the conglomerate was striving to make progress in research into and development of the core technologies for the next generation of green, environment-friendly and safe ships.

"That is responding to demand from China and the rest of the world to build a low-carbon and sustainable economy," said Tan.

Citing the Gulf of Mexico oil leak, Tan said, "The incident reminds China's shipbuilding sector and maritime industry in large, that in the process of exploring the ocean, we are obligated to take environmental protection and human lives into consideration, to produce safe and environment-friendly maritime equipment to make our lives better."

At least 20 million gallons of oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, affecting more than 110km of coastline after the explosion and sinking of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in April.

Last year, the CSSC surpassed the 10 million dwt mark for the first time, reaffirming its position as China's most productive shipbuilding group.

Based in Shanghai and closely cooperating with the CSSC, Baosteel Group, China's second-biggest steelmaker was under great pressure to reshape its policy for future development, said group chairman Xu Lejiang.

He told the seminar that government officials in Shanghai had said that his enterprise's performance in curbing emissions had an immediate impact on whether Shanghai could meet the emissions targets set by the city.

"As public awareness of environmental protection has risen in recent years, the steel-making sector is increasingly under pressure, due to its high energy consumption and heavily polluting emissions," said Xu. "The moving of the Baosteel plant outside the city is a good case."

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