Japanese shipbuilders are currently improving their fuel-saving technology to improve competition with South Korea and China. Domestic vessel makers, including Oshimma Shipbuilding and Imabari Shipbuilding Co., Japan's largest shipyard, are now backing global fuel-use standards, similar to car's mileage ratings, to highlight cost-savings for operators as oil prices rise.
A Japanese "handy-size" dry-bulk ship typically uses about 24 tns of fuel a day, compared with 28 tons for Chinese-made ones. That translates into about $2,700 a day of cost savings on fuel. To help highlight fuel-efficiency, Japanese shipyards are backing the global standards to be discussed next month by the International Maritime Organization. The U.N. agency's index will define a minimum efficiency level for various types of ships that will be raised every five years to encourage improvement.
The shipyards have benefited from a reputation for reliability and on-schedule deliveries, said Frank G. Jensen, CEO of Clipper Group which operates more than 200 vessels. "It's like buying a Toyota -- you know what you're getting," he said. "With China, it's more like an unknown."
"It's a good move to compare the fuel-efficiency of our ships with other builders," said Katsushige Kambara, president of Tsuneishi Holdings Inc., whose shipbuilding arm has yards in Japan, China and the Philippines. "We should put our strength together and lead the world."
To pare fuel usage, Imabari has developed a hybrid fin for commodity vessels and tankers. The fins is attached behind the ship's propeller and it helps channel the flow of water to the rudder, cutting fuel use by as much as 6%, said Hitoshi Fujita, a director of ship design at the company.