What Is Shipbuilding? Definition, Meaning and Concept

Shipbuilding is an industry in which people design, build, test, and repair ships. This industry is one of the oldest professions in the world, as people have been building ships and boats since before recorded history. Leaders in the shipbuilding industry include Japan, South Korea, and China. The opposite of shipbuilding is scrapping, in which ships are dismantled for recycling of their components after they are no longer seaworthy.

The shipbuilding process begins with design, in which engineers discuss customer needs and develop a ship that meets those needs. Engineers can also develop generic designs for mass production, and the company offers customization on boat accessories to meet requirements. Once the design is completed and finalized, preparations begin at a shipyard to build the ship. The ship begins on dry land, with workers laying the keel and frame and slowly building the ship. They can also start on the interior fittings, completing the fittings after the ship has been launched. Once completed, the ship is taken for sea trials to confirm that it is safe and to establish performance statistics.

In addition to providing shipbuilding services, many shipyards also carry out repairs, taking ships into dry dock to inspect their hulls and complete repairs as well as cleaning and refurbishing fittings. Boats see rough use during their lives, and may need to be overhauled multiple times to address wear and tear damage and meet new specifications set by boat owners. Eventually a ship will be deemed unusable and will be sent for breaking.

The shipbuilding industry employs people in a wide range of fields, including engineers, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, and manual laborers. It is usually done near major ports and harbors for convenience during ship launching, and to ensure ships in use can easily access the shipyard for repair and refurbishment. Some shipbuilders focus on particular applications, such as ships for naval use, oil tankers or cruise ships, with specialized equipment and personnel.

Shipbuilding, a related field, involves the construction of smaller ships. Ships tend to be easier to build because they are smaller and not designed for long ocean voyages, although some specialized ships can be extremely complex. As with shipbuilding, there is also a profession designed to handle vessels that have reached the end of their lives, known as shipbreaking.