Japanese shipowners ordered 22 handysize bulker newbuildings at local yards in December, according to the Japan Ship Exporters’ Association.

Japanese yards won a total of 42 orders amounting to 1.4m gt last month. Around 84% were placed by domestic shipowners.

At the end of December, the orderbook stood at 487 ships of 21.7m gt, with deliveries stretching into 2026.

The end-of-year order rush appears to have been prompted by owners taking advantage of offers from yards as the yen hit a 30-year low against the US dollar.

Even deals between Japanese owners and their compatriot shipyards are almost always negotiated in US dollars.

While the yen is cheap, the yards have been offering top-heavy payment terms — with up to 50% of the price paid on contract signing — which allows them to immediately earn more yen from dollar income.

The higher yen income means they can offer a discount on the dollar price.

Brokers report that Kasuga Shipping and Hisafuku Kisen have both ordered one 40,000-dwt bulk carrier each at Hakodate Dock for $32.3m apiece. The ships will be delivered in 2025.

Inui Global Logistics recently revealed it had ordered two more 40,000-dwt units for delivery in 2025 at an unnamed local shipyard.

Despite the price advantage of a lower yen, Japanese yards still appear expensive compared with their Chinese rivals.

Broker Clarksons reports that the average price for a 38,000-dwt handysize is $28.5m. Japan’s Doun Kisen recently opted to order in China rather than at home. It contracted two 40,500-dwt bulkers at Nantong Xiangyu shipyard priced at $31m each.

The cheap yen deals may now be coming to an end as the currency has been strengthening since it hit a low of ¥150 to the US dollar towards the end of last year.

Ordering for handysizes in Japan has been popular over recent months because long-term time charter rates in the sector have remained relatively strong.

Clarksons is reporting five-year time charter rates for a 38,000-dwt bulker at $13,000 per day compared with $13,725 per day for a kamsarmax and $12,100 per day for a panamax.