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and all of these have been for the Jones Act trade. The recent announcement by MARAD and Newport News Shipbuilding about contracts financed under MARAD Title XI loan guarantees to build several tankers for a foreign owner is the first contract to build a foreign-flag ship in a U.S. shipyard since the 1950s. There have been several other promising announcements for foreign-flag commercial ships, but no other contracts from U.S. owners have been announced to date.
Because they are only now beginning to market commercial products overseas, U.S. shipbuilders are seriously deficient in commercial marketing expertise relative to their competitors, who have been successfully doing so for many years. In a recent major gaming exercise, representatives of U.S. shipbuilders, not surprisingly, showed very poor marketing skills compared to representatives of foreign shipbuilders (CNA, 1994).
Marketing in the shipbuilding industry, as in many other industries, is considered here to consist of the following stages: (1) segment definition and analysis, (2) product planning (for segments), (3) pricing, bidding, and estimating, (4) the sales function, (5) individual customer analysis, and (6) after-sales support. Government relations and environmental considerations are also significant marketing factors in the shipbuilding industry.
The consensus of the committee is that the U.S. shipbuilding industry is quite weak in a number of specific marketing areas. These areas include the fundamental understanding of the commercial market and its segments, the mix of buying factors most critical to each segment, and customer preferences and business economics (e.g., such buying factors as the relative importance of price versus financing and product quality versus time to delivery). The industry is similarly weak in responding quickly to the customer during preliminary design, knowing what parts are available, having a well developed ability to offer standardized options, and achieving adequate control over the time required to build.
There are several extensive, reliable, regularly updated databases on shipbuilding and ship operation available by means of real-time, online, user-friendly systems. For about $50,000 annually, shipbuilders can subscribe to three or four systems that are marketed internationally. Raw data, such as individual ship charter terms, vessel prices, cargo flows, schedules, tariffs, and so forth are collected by these firms and "repackaged" in fee-for-service databases. For instance, cargo flow information is usually purchased from various governments, the OECD, and other international organizations and repackaged for resale; price and vessel-movement information are developed from insurance and charter brokers. A quarterly compendium of historical data, including a set of forecasts for cargo movements and ship construction, is available. Independent consulting firms worldwide also offer tailored assessments for maritime firms, including analyses focusing on particular market segments or geographic regions.
Given these deficiencies in U.S. shipbuilding industry practice, what role could the U.S. government play to support the industry's development of commercial marketing? Marketing data are hard for government to gather because,