In 1711 the Scott family built their first shipyard in Greenock. For the next couple of centuries the Clyde area would be the epicentre of the global shipbuilding industry. The Scotsman newspaper has estimated that some 25,000 naval, merchant and passenger ships were built in these Glaswegian docks during the industry’s heyday, with around one in five ships made on the Clyde in the early twentieth century.
China wants to emulate this level of dominance, and as part of that strategy the government formally created a shipping behemoth late last month. On November 26 the newly merged China Shipping Group (CSG) had its unveiling ceremony in Beijing. The world’s largest shipbuilder was created from the amalgamation of two state-owned giants: CSIC (known locally as the ‘North Ship’) and CSSC (known as the ‘South Ship’). The new entity has been described as the “Divine Ship” by Chinese media to reflect its monumental scale.
Indeed, journalists have been listing the big numbers: CSG has total assets of Rmb790 billion ($112 billion), around 310,000 employees and ownership of 147 research institutes. Its chairman Lei Fanpei said the “integration of the two groups has laid the foundation for us to build a world-class enterprise with international competitiveness”. Lei added that this year the combined entity would sell Rmb78 billion of non-military ships, of which Rmb60 billion would be sold abroad – with customers in 150 countries. It will all sound very familiar to any Glaswegian that still remembers the manufacturing glories of the Clyde’s past.