April 9 - Wilhelmsen Ships Service's (WSS) general manager for Japan, Yoshihiro Iizuka, has said that although the Japanese market is moving towards growth for 2014, the recovery will be stronger in the second half of the year, with an increase in newbuil

"Overall, the Japanese market is in recovery, with annual pay rises by the major corporates estimated at around 2 to 3 percent for 2014," said Iizuka.

"However," he warned, "the weakened Japanese yen relative to the past couple of years has contributed to the widening of the trade deficit with particular reductions in export value. Added to this, consumption tax is set to rise from 5 to 8 percent, leaving some current concerns over the potential for market growth."

Despite the challenges of a slow recovery, Iizuka stated that there has been a steady increase in the number of vessels calling at Japanese ports due to a rise in import demand.

"The over-capacity situation of the last few years is gradually declining and we are seeing steadily increasing cargo demand," he added. "New ship orders are set to pick up as demand for energy efficient tonnage, compliant with the latest environmental regulations increases, with a short term peak in construction levels expected in 2016."

Iizuka also recognised the need for customers to reduce costs and increase efficiency across their operations, with safety being one of the biggest concerns that WSS plans to focus on.

"WSS Japan, in collaboration with our global network, is focusing on ensuring that customers have access to our full range of safety solutions to ensure regulatory compliance. By working closely together with clients, we believe that we can help to reduce complexity and the risks involved with port to port operations in the most cost efficient and effective manner," he explained.

WSS currently covers 180 ports in Japan with three main service centres located in Yokohama, Kobe and Moji, in addition to an office in Tokyo focusing on ship agency business.