In China, Shipbuilders Languish After Bubble Bursts
A shipbuilding boom raised the fortunes of this hardscrabble industrial port. Five-star hotels sprouted along with machinery depots and metal shops. European luxury cars darted past heavy trucks on the bustling streets.
But in another sign ofChina’seconomic slowdown, shipyards are now closing and half-finished vessels lie rusting in the humid haze. Prosperity is receding like the tide.
Thousands of laborers have lost their jobs. Liu Danyin, a compact man with bulging forearms, found so much work in the region’s shipyards over the last decade that he built a new home for his family hundreds of miles away in the countryside. Then he was laid off suddenly last year.
“Many companies collapsed,” said Liu, 48, who recently took a lower-paying job building a sea bridge. “There used to be so much energy and life here. Now they don’t build ships anymore.”
The hard times that have befallen Yueqing, a county in the eastern province of Zhejiang, are playing out at shipbuilding bases across China, from the northern port of Qingdao to the silt-filled Yangtze River in the central heartlands.
The bellwether industry’s troubles have their roots in a shipping boom that started a decade ago. Global investors rushed to finance new vessels needed to haul coal and copper toChina’shumming factories and to transport finished electronics, toys and other exports out. China went from producing just over 100 vessels in 2002 to more than 1,000 in 2010, according to Worldyards, a Singaporean-based shipping industry research firm.