Demand for new vessels has hit Japanese ship builders with its export market declining to a 17-year low in 2009, according to the Japan Ship Exporters’ Association.

In 2009 Japan received ship orders totalling 6,340,591 gross tons, down 56.5% from the previous year.

It was the largest yearly decline since 1992, when Japanese export ship orders declined 63.1% to 2,671,030 gross tons due to the “bubble economy”, the association said.

In 2008 the industry had an export order drop of 46.8%, according to

Japanese shipbuilders received orders for 119 export ships in 2009, compared to 77 in 1992.

In March, the industry received orders of 928,021 gross tons, up 69.4% from the same month a year earlier.