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 ship breaking, in which ships are dismantled for recycling of their components after they are no longer seaworthy.
The process of shipbuilding starts with the design, in which engineers discuss the needs of the client and develop a ship which will meet those needs. Engineers can also develop generic designs for mass production, with the firm offering customization in the ship's fittings to meet requirements. After the design is completed and finalized, preparations begin in a shipyard to build the ship. The ship starts out on dry land, with workers laying the keel and framework and slowly building up the ship. They may also start on the interior fittings, completing the fittings after the ship has been launched. Once finished, the ship is taken out for sea trials to confirm that it is safe and to establish performance statistics.
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In addition to providing shipbuilding services, many shipyards also perform repairs, bringing ships into dry docks to inspect their hulls and complete repairs in addition to cleaning and restoring fittings. Ships see hard use over their lifetimes, and they may need to be overhauled on multiple occasions to address damage caused by wear and tear, and to meet new specifications set out by the ship's owners. Eventually, a ship will be deemed unusable and it will be sent out for breaking.
The shipbuilding industry employs people in a wide range of fields, including engineers, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, and manual laborers. It typically takes place near major harbors and ports for convenience during the ship's launching, and to ensure that ships in use can access the shipyard easily for repair and refurbishing. Some shipbuilders focus on particular applications, such as ships for naval use, oil tankers, or cruise ships, with specialized equipment and personnel.
Boatbuilding, a related field, involves the construction of smaller boats. Boats tend to be easier to construct because they are smaller and not designed for long oceangoing voyages, although some specialized boats can be extremely complex. Just as with shipbuilding, there is also a profession designed to handle boats which have reached the end of their lives, known as boat breaking.