China's Big Shipbuilding Push: Part Two

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Product Developments

(Continued from Part One.)

How ready the world’s gas companies will be to buy Chinese LNG carriers ultimately remains to be seen. In large part it will probably come down to how insurable they will be and that in turn will rest on the certification, such as Lloyds Register, DNV or ABS that will oversee the construction and sign off the finished vessels.

While the money is undoubtedly in the more sophisticated civil market, Beijing also has an eye on the military market, initially for the Chinese navy, but in time no doubt as an export opportunity. So far they have not proved terribly adept.

An Economist article examines China’s efforts to acquire an aircraft carrier. According to the article, on Aug. 10, after years of secretive conversion work, the Chinese navy launched its first aircraft carrier. Except that it wasn’t China’s — the yet-to-be-named vessel was purchased from Ukraine in 1998, where it had apparently been rusting, half-finished, after being started ten years earlier not exactly cutting edge then.

Maybe that is unfair. As with some of the US’ aging battleships, the original date of construction matters less than the weapons systems on board; a WWII battleship with modern firepower can be plenty enough intimidating if floating off your coast. China’s neighbors aren’t too impressed by Beijing’s intentions either, viewing them as a dangerous extension of China’s naval power. Strangely, China is the only member of the UN Security Council without an aircraft carrier (India has had one for a long time and even Thailand has one).

Although China is reported to be building two carriers from scratch, solid details are few and far between, suggesting they are still a long way from completion. Like complex civil vessels, aircraft carriers are sophisticated ships, and no doubt China will get there in time. But as with civil vessels, few are keen to help them along.

–Stuart Burns

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