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Hogan Steel Archive: Shipbuilding

The “Hogan Steel Archive,” representing a three-year collaborative effort of the Walsh Library’s Department of Archives and Special Collections and Fordham’s Industrial Economics Research Institute, commemorates and preserves the remarkable steel legacy


Documents in the shipbuilding files contain information on the shipbuilding industry’s history, industry profiles and statistics, new ship construction, ports and ore carriers, the optimum size of ore carriers, the U.S. bulk-carrier fleet, and a brief history of the U.S. Merchant Marine. In addition, the book and reference collection includes Big Load Afloat: U.S. Domestic Water Transportation Resources by the American Waterways Operators and the IISI publication The Seaborne Transport of Iron and Steelmaking Raw Materials.

Analysis:The shipbuilding industry is a significant steel consumer in a number of countries, although the industry’s business and its steel needs have been very cyclical. During 1975-2000, for example, the world’s annual deliveries of ships over 100 gross tons varied from a 1975 peak of 34.2 million gross tons to a 1988 low of 11.3MGT, followed by an irregular recovery to 31.7MGT at the end of the period.

Most of the industry’s ship tonnage is accounted for by very large vessels, including oil tankers, which in recent years have provided about 23% of the total, freight and container ships (20%), chemical tankers (14%), bulk-cargo carriers (14%), and cruise ships (9%), with the remaining one-fifth of the business in the form of LNG carriers, offshore oil platforms, naval vessels, and other ships. Their construction requires a number of specialized steel products, including various grades and sizes of shipbuilding plates, bulb flats, pipe and fittings, and special shapes and profiles. Among the plate products consumed are anti-corrosion grades for crude-oil tankers and clad and stainless grades for chemical tankers.

Among the very large ships, tankers are built at yards in Brazil, China, Croatia, Japan, Korea, Poland and the United States; container ships in China, Denmark, Japan, Korea, Poland, and Taiwan; bulk-cargo carriers in China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan; LNG carriers in Japan, Korea, and Spain; and cruise ships in Finland, France, Italy, and Japan.

Far and away, the world’s number-one shipbuilding region is the Far East , which accounted for nearly 84% of total tonnage deliveries in 2000, up from 51% in 1975. In 2000, Korea became the world’s leading shipbuilder on a tonnage basis, delivering 12.2MGT and moving slightly ahead of Japan , which delivered 12.0MGT. Ranking third in the world was China at 1.6MGT. Among other regions, Western Europe contributed about 11% of the world’s ship tonnage, Eastern Europe about 4%, North and South America less than 1%, and all other countries some 2%.

Starting in the 1950’s, when bulk cargo carriers of 50 thousand DWT were considered large, Japan’s steel and shipbuilding industries spearheaded the growth of bulk-carrier size to accommodate the transportation needs of the country’s rapidly expanding, deepwater steel plants. Notably, both of today’s dominant shipbuilding countries, Korea and Japan, have major, coastal steel plants with a near total dependence on imported iron ore, coking coal, and other essential raw materials, which they now receive in bulk cargo carriers as large as 250 thousand DWT. In turn, water transport links the steel plants to world-class shipyards, the latter providing an effective way to turn plates and other steel products into very large ships, high-value-added, manufactured products that are a leading source of export revenue.