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South Korea’s struggling shipbuilders started the first month of 2017 with more orders than their competitors in China and Japan, according to data from a global shipping information firm on Tuesday.

South Korean shipbuilders received a total of seven units in contracting volume of 330,000 compensated gross tonnage, a measurement to gauge the amount of work that goes into the construction of a vessel, according to UK-based Clarkson Research Service. 

This includes two floating storage regasification units, two very large crude carriers and three product carriers.

Hyundai Heavy Industries clinched a total of three orders -- one FSRU and two VLCC -- while Samsung Heavy Industries got one order to build a FSRU.

Dae Sun Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. and Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co. each collected an order to build product carriers.

In comparison, China received orders worth 110,000 CGT to build eight ships while Japan snatched one deal worth 20,000 CGT.

“It is too early to evaluate because the total new orders volume is at the similar level as last year,” an industry expert said. “We can say Korean shipbuilders have started on a positive note.”

New orders for South Korean shipyards accounted for more than half of the total new orders last month.

The total amount of new orders around the world stood at 31 units worth 600,000 CGT in January, a slight improvement from 560,000 CGT to build 44 units in January last year, during which South Korean shipbuilders saw only one order with 20,000 CGT.

However, order backlogs for South Korean shipbuilders still lagged behind those of China and Japan.

In December, South Korea’s backlogged orders were overtaken by Japan for the first time since July 2013. With 18.97 million CGT, the country’s shipyards backlogged orders in January still remained behind Japan’s 19.26 million CGT and China’s shipyards’ 28.40 million CGT, the Clarkson data showed.

The total global backlogged orders were 81.87 million CGT as of the end of January, recording the lowest since August 2004, indicating a sluggish shipbuilding industry. The prices for new orders, an indicator to gauge future market condition, also declined for most types of ships.

Once the world’s top players in the shipbuilding industry before being overtaken by China in 2012, South Korea’s shipyards have been suffering from a decline in new orders and backlogged orders amid an industry-wide slump and fierce competition.

The country’s shipbuilders came up with self-rescue plans worth 11 trillion won ($9.5 billion) last year to overcome a protracted slump and mounting losses. 

By Park Ga-young (