South Korea’s total ship exports fell by 29.8% to $39.7bn in 2012, compared with $56.6bn in 2011, according to a report by the Institute for International Trade.
The decrease in ship exports marks South Korea’s first decline in annual exports since 1999, when the country’s shipbuilding sector reported a 6% drop.
According to the report, ship exports in China reached $33.6bn in the first 10 months of 2012, a decrease of 5.9% compared with the same period a year ago.
Ship exports to the EU, Central and South America and China declined by 40.5%, 28.4% and 28.1% respectively, while exports to the US increased by 128.5%.
The value of ship exports in South Korea has reportedly fallen since local shipbuilders delivered a larger number of low-priced vessels to their customers in 2012.
South Korean ship exports in 2013 are expected to rise by around 4%, with South Korean shipbuilders aiming to build high-priced vessels like drill ships and offshore facilities.
Institute for International Trade researcher Cho Sang-hyun said: "New ship orders, order backlogs and other barometers will not improve sharply this year, but we can cautiously expect a mild recovery."