The Japanese Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry will map out by the end of this fiscal year a set of plans to enhance the international competitiveness of Japan's shipbuilding industry, according to ministry officials. The plans are expected to include digitization of shipbuilding techniques, which would then be compiled into manuals to make it easier for younger and inexperienced workers to reproduce the craftsmanship of seasoned workers.
Japan's shipbuilding industry -- the world's largest ship supplier in terms of volume -- is known for using highly professional techniques to manufacture complicated ship structures. However, these techniques are solely dependent on workers' intuition and experience. At present, there is a shortage of young apprentices to learn these techniques, and recently there has been an increase in cases of poor craftsmanship, the ministry officials said. To create systematic manuals, the ministry will translate various shipbuilding processes into numerical terms to find out the most suitable temperatures, time duration and frequencies in heating, cooling and changing steel products' shapes, etc. The ministry has decided to help the shipbuilding industry because its No. 1 status in the global market is increasingly being threatened by South Korean shipbuilders, and is also facing a sizable challenge from rapidly developing Chinese enterprises, they said.
Japan had an average global market share of 39 percent -- the largest -- in terms of output volume between 1997 and 2001, followed closely by South Korea at 34 percent, according to the ministry.