Jiangnan Shipyard: Extending from the Yangtze River to the Ocean

2022-03-01 15:45:00 Source:China Today Author:YU JUNWEI
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The Jiangnan Shipyard has expanded its presence from the Yangtze River region to the ocean, making outstanding contributions to the advancement of the shipbuilding and shipping industries. 

With its predecessor dating back to 1865, Jiangnan Shipyard (Group) Co., Ltd. has been acclaimed as the birthplace of China’s national industry, the cradle of Chinese industrial workers, and a forerunner of the country’s opening-up drive. Over the vicissitudes of the last one and a half centuries, Jiangnan Shipyard has expanded its presence from the Yangtze River region to the blue oceans, making outstanding contributions to the advancement of the shipbuilding and shipping industries in the country.

A 15,000-TEU container ship built by Jiangnan Shipyard makes a voyage. 

Birthplace of China’s National Industry

The predecessor of Jiangnan Shipyard was the first large-scale government-run enterprise in Chinese history. Its founding opened a new historical chapter in which China began to borrow achievements of Western natural sciences as a way to develop the nation. In 1868, three years after its founding, the government-run enterprise set up a translation office, introducing works of Western natural science to China.

At the critical moment when the very existence of the Chinese nation was threatened by foreign aggressors, Jiangnan Shipyard made great contributions to the building of Chinese naval defense forces. When resisting Japanese aggressors, Chinese naval forces used warships built or converted by the shipyard.

Even in wartime, the shipyard managed to substantially improve its shipbuilding capabilities. A river passenger-cargo ship built in 1946 was initially built by revolutionary welding technology and block assembly in the history of Chinese shipbuilding.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the shipyard played an active part in the equipment manufacturing of the Navy of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Since the buiding of the first diesel-electric submarine that began in Jiangnan Shipyard in April 1955, the shipyard has built more than 60 submarines for the PLA Navy, freeing the country from dependence on foreign technologies in building submarines. In December 1965, Type 65 frigate was launched on its maiden voyage. It represented a breakthrough made by Jiangnan Shipyard in relying on homegrown technologies and supply chains to build sophisticated battle ships. It is of great significance in the history of China’s national defense construction.

Jiangnan Shipyard also contributed to the development of China’s heavy industry. It finished building China’s first 10,000-ton hydraulic press in 1962, which is still in service. The completion of two surveying vessels by the shipyard in 1979 made China the fourth country in the world to boast capabilities of conducting ocean-going mapping and surveying missions. A series of surveying vessels after that provided essential surveying data for the development of China’s aerospace undertakings.

Boosted by Opening-up

After China adopted the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, Jiangnan Shipyard took the initiative in going global and participating in international competitions. It was also one of the forerunners in the reform of state-owned enterprises.

In May 1980, China inked an export contract of ships. The task of building two 27,000-ton lakes-suitable bulk carriers was assigned to Jiangnan Shipyard. In building the first ship, Jiangnan Shipyard borrowed widely-adopted international protocols in shipbuilding as well as management experience of globally leading shipyards. Productivity and management of the company were greatly improved in the process. The launching of the two ships were attended by the then first lady of the Philippines and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, respectively.

In October 1987, Jiangnan Shipyard delivered a 64,000-ton Panamax bulk carrier, and the series of the bulk carriers were highly acclaimed and traded on the international shipping exchange in London. This helped establish a foothold of Chinese shipyards in the international shipping market.

In November 1996, China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited approved the overall plan for restructuring part of Jiangnan Shipyard into a shareholding company. On June 3, 1997, Jiangnan Heavy Industry was listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The restructuring provided a strong impetus for Jiangnan Shipyard to optimize its product mix and realize business transformation. Starting from the second half of 1995, Jiangnan Shipyard built 18 high-tech and high-value-added ships in four types, setting new records in China’s shipbuilding history.

Jiangnan Shipyard won widespread recognition from the shipbuilding industry at home and abroad. It was one of the first shipyards upgrading its product mix from relying on ordinary bulk cargo ships to high-tech ships. Its technology has been universally acknowledged worldwide.

Empowerment with Technology

Jiangnan Shipyard has also been leveraging the power of technology to boost the transformation of the entire shipbuilding industry in China.

Keeping abreast of changes in market demands, the shipyard decided to focus on ships with high added values in 2012. In June that year, the 83,000-cubic-meter Very Large Gas Carrier (VLGC) independently developed by Jiangnan Shipyard won the first VLGC orders in China’s shipbuilding industry. Since then, the shipyard has been a global leader in the VLGC field, delivering an average of eight ships annually in both 2020 and 2021. In 2019, the R&D team developed the first 98,000-cubic-meter VLGC with a built-in B-type containment system in the world. The ship was delivered on December 28, 2021, highlighting its strong R&D and construction capabilities in the field of liquefied gas carriers.

In the field of large container ships, Jiangnan Shipyard also holds a vital position with ability to build the world’s largest ships. It delivered the world’s largest container vessel on June 12, 2018. It also built large-scale container ships for the CMA CGM Group, a leading French container transportation and shipping company.

Jiangnan Shipyard also takes a lead in building vessels for scientific research. The world’s largest scientific research and training ship Dong Fang Hong 3 with highest silent-class and China’s first domestically built polar icebreaker Xuelong 2 were successfully delivered in 2019, enabling China’s national maritime scientific research capability to reach a new level. China’s largest marine comprehensive scientific research training ship Sun Yat-sen University was delivered in June 2021.

Jiangnan Shipyard is a pacesetter in intelligent manufacturing in the shipbuilding industry. In 2015, the shipyard introduced a three-dimensional experience platform for digital transformation of the shipbuilding industry. In 2019, it established a 5G innovation laboratory, testing key technologies in intelligent manufacturing, creating an enabling environment for innovation, and incubating major projects of intelligent manufacturing.

A welding laboratory was also established in 2019, which boasts an intelligent welding system. The laboratory has incubated the state-of-the-art smart welding workstation in the shipbuilding industry.

Dreams of the Future

The 21st century is the century of the ocean. Historical experience shows that oceanic exploration holds promise. After 156 memorable years of development, how will Jiangnan Shipyard move toward the future?

It is committed to firmly implementing the mission of “leading industry development, supporting national defense construction, and serving the national strategy,” striving to be a pioneer in the high-quality development of the shipbuilding industry, and changing the status quo in traditional manufacturing. Sailing along the Maritime Silk Road for a blue dream, Jiangnan Shipyard is embracing a new century of glory.

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