If legendary broadcaster Walter Winchell were still in front
of a microphone, his audience would be a great deal larger.
Winchell, who opened his famed radio broadcasts in the 1930s
through the early '50s with the line "Good evening Mr. and Mrs.
North and South America and all the ships at sea," would be
reaching a lot more ships, and global manufacturers of carbon
steel plate couldn't be happier.
Global demand for carbon steel plate products has been
extremely strong for more than a year, with a number of end-use
markets contributing greatly to plate's overall strength. The
energy and infrastructure markets have been particularly
strong, built on demand from developing countries. But
shipbuilding demand has been another constant, with more orders
for ships from both commercial and military customers keeping
demand for plate products at high levels.
In the United States, ArcelorMittal USA Inc., Chicago, is
the largest producer of carbon steel plate for shipbuilding
(much of it directed to the U.S. Navy's shipbuilding programs),
followed by Nucor Corp., Charlotte, N.C. Evraz Claymont Steel,
Claymont, Del., and SSAB North America Inc., Lisle, Ill., also
manufacture carbon plate, some of which goes to the
There is considerably more plate made for shipbuilders in
the Far East, where companies like Nippon Steel Corp. and JFE
Steel Corp., both based in Tokyo, are leading plate producers,
along with Seoul, South Korea-based Posco Ltd.
"The demand from shipbuilding is really strong," said John
Ferriola, chief operating officer of Nucor. "What we are seeing
happening is due to demand for raw materials. China has a great
demand for raw materials-they are trying to ship in a lot of
material to meet their steel demand. There are a lot of
ships-cargo ships-being built right now to try to meet that
demand. So we see demand from shipbuilding as very strong and
we think it's going to stay strong for some time."
Both Nippon Steel and JFE Steel see the same market
dynamics. Both companies say they are planning to boost output
of shipbuilding plate to meet demand.
JFE Steel reportedly is looking to spend upward of $280
million to boost shipbuilding plate production by 10 percent
during the next three years. More than 5 percent of JFE Steel's
production increase is slated to occur in the next year, rising
to about 6 million tonnes, to meet demand from shipbuilders who
have orders backlogged into 2012, Reuters India
reported recently. Meanwhile, Nippon Steel intends to spend
$190 million to increase output of shipbuilding plate to 6
million tonnes annually by August 2009.
"People are moving goods on a more regular basis," a source
at another U.S. plate producer said. "China and India need a
lot of raw materials and there just are not enough ships to
meet their needs. I think most of the demand is coming from
Some also is coming from the U.S. military. ArcelorMittal
USA has been providing plate to the military, and Allegheny
Technologies Inc. (ATI), Pittsburgh, recently unveiled a new
specialty armor steel for U.S. and international defense
markets (AMM, June 17).
ATI 500-MIL plate is designed to meet the new U.S.
MIL-DTL-46100E high-hard specifications for ballistic
performance, protecting against armor-piercing rounds while
also offering good blast-resistance properties. Applications
for the new plate range from medium- and heavyweight tactical
vehicles to armored patrol cars, above-deck structures on ships
and aboard aircraft in perforated versions.
"The market introduction of ATI 500-MIL armor steel comes at
a time when demand for high-hard specialty metals is strong,"
said Pat Hassey, chairman, president and chief executive
officer of ATI. "Lead times are long for military contractors
and fabricators. ATI has the capacity to meet immediate and
near-term demand, with the production capacity for future
demand that the product is expected to generate."