Korean shipbuilders eyeing reentry into container crane market

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A local port authority said it is considering a move to place orders to South Korean shipbuilders for the construction of several gantry cranes at new container terminals being built here.

Busan Port Authority is currently building seven container piers at Busan Newport to be completed by 2021 and three additional berths are being built at the port by private firms. The estimated cost is about 1 trillion won ($893 million) for the building of 10 container cranes.

South Korean shipbuilders stopped building container and transfer cranes in 2006 amid the influx of cheap Chinese products.

The price difference, however, narrowed down to less than five percent recently, an official of the authority said, noting Chinese cranes were more than 30 percent cheaper than South Korean products a decade ago.

South Korean products may be more competitive when considering maintenance costs, the official said.

Some South Korean shipbuilders have expressed intentions to resume the production of gantry cranes after reorganizing the manpower and equipment needed, industry sources said.

The shipbuilders made the decision for the reentry into the crane market considering Busan Newport’s plans to build several more new container terminals in the coming years and the demand for replacements for aging container cranes at Gwangyang, Ulsan, Incheon and several other South Korean ports, insiders said.

It may be possible for the country’s shipbuilders to make inroads into the container crane market abroad in the near future, an industry watcher said.