The Ocean En­gi­neer

Changhong Ship­build­ing Draws Up New ‘Naval Genome’ for Ding­hai

That's China - - Enterprising Dinghai - Text by / Li Jing

Sited in the Zhoushan Changhong In­ter­na­tional In­dus­trial Park that cov­ers an area of 4,300 acres and has a to­tal coast­line reach­ing 4.5 kilo­me­ters, Changhong Ship­build­ing is a ‘new­born calf’ in the ship­build­ing in­dus­tria l scene of Ding­hai as well as in the Zhoushan Ar­chi­pel­ago, with its op­er­a­tion launched only a few years ago.

On May 25, 2015, the rum­bling of the frame crane hoist putting to­gether steel plates into a colos­sal car­rier drew in a spe­cial vis­i­tor, whose en­cour­age­ment filled the hearts of ev­ery­one in the com­pany with im­mense con­fi­dence.

“This time of dif­fi­cul­ties won’t last long. The key is to grasp op­por­tu­ni­ties within the glob­ally com­pet­i­tive mar­ket and strive to make progress with a for­ward-look­ing at­ti­tude,” Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping said af­ter the in­spec­tion.

Be­hind the sen­sa­tional visit by Xi Jin­ping is the en­ter­prise of a ship­build­ing ‘new­bie’ that took only one year to rock the slug­gish in­dus­try with a mag­nif­i­cent ‘school re­port’ in 2014. That year saw the fledg­ling com­pany given an or­der to man­u­fac­ture the prov­ince’s largest ore car­rier.

The smooth de­liv­ery of the ore car­rier not only placed the com­pany within China’s first-tier ship-builders le­gion but also made ‘man­u­fac­tured by Changhong’ an in­dus­trial bench­mark. Within a few years, Changhong Ship­build­ing grew into a pow­er­house op­er­at­ing on a full in­dus­trial chain that is rarely seen in China. It has proven it­self as a leader in robo­ti­sa­tion and dig­i­ti­za­tion. The suc­cess of the com­pany also comes from its stun­ning mar­ket sen­si­tiv­ity at a time when most of its peers were left di­rec­tion­less in the gen­eral at­mos­phere of re­ces­sion. The Ding­hai-based ship-build­ing spe­cial­ist also branched out into other as­pects of ocean engi­neer­ing such as ship re­pair­ing and re­cy­cling, prov­ing its po­ten­tials in second-hand ship trad­ing and metal re­source re­cy­cling. With a new clus­ter of large-scale projects set­tling down in Ding­hai about 10 years ago, the ship-build­ing and re­pair­ing in­dus­try of Ding­hai was ush­ered into a new, fast track of ‘in­no­va­tion’ amidst a stag­nant mar­ket suf­fer­ing from over-ca­pac­ity, de­pressed prices, low profit mar­gins, trade dis­tor­tions and wide­spread sub­sidi­s­a­tion.

His­tor­i­cally, the ship­build­ing in­dus­try in Im­pe­rial China reached its height dur­ing the Song Dy­nasty, Yuan Dy­nasty, and early Ming Dy­nasty. By the end of this pe­riod, build­ing com­mer­cial ves­sels had reached a size and so­phis­ti­ca­tion far ex­ceed­ing that of con­tem­po­rary Europe. The es­tab­lish­ment of China's first of­fi­cial stand­ing navy in 1132 AD and the enor­mous in­crease in mar­itime trade abroad al­lowed the ship­build­ing in­dus­try in prov­inces like Fu­jian to thrive as never be­fore. The largest sea­ports in the world were in China and in­cluded Guangzhou, Quanzhou, and Xi­a­men.

How­ever, the long-time ma­rine glory came to an abrupt end when the ban on ma­rine trade with for­eign coun­tries was de­clared by the Qing gov­ern­ment in the mid-17th cen­tury. The coun­try’s ‘naval pride’ sank into a pro­longed hyp­notic pe­riod.

Ship­build­ing has long been an at­trac­tive in­dus­try for de­vel­op­ing na­tions, used by Ja­pan in the 1950s and 1960s to re­build its in­dus­trial struc­ture and cho­sen by South Korea as a key in­dus­trial strat­egy in the 1970s. The world's largest ship­builder, China has been an emerg­ing low-cost, high­vol­ume ship­builder that over­took South Korea dur­ing the 2008–2010 global fi­nan­cial cri­sis as they won new or­ders for medium and small-sized con­tainer ships. In the sense of in­no­va­tion, if China is now in the process of re­peat­ing these mod­els with large state-sup­ported in­vest­ments in this in­dus­try, Changhong Ship­build­ing is prov­ing the coun­try has a lot more to do than ‘copy and paste’.

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