South Korea's big three shipbuilders - Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering - had all participated in the bid to win the shipbuilding contract that was worth a total of US$1.44 billion, according to BusinessKorea.
An official from the shipbuilding industry was quoted as saying, "South Korean companies had swept large containership deals in the global market but they now feel embarrassment that not only the market of low-end ships but also ultra large and high value-added ships are being eaten into by China."
The deal is to build nine ultra large container ships which have dual-fuel propulsion systems that can operate on either liquefied natural gas or fuel oil.
The unexpected loss to Chinese companies, has raised concerns among South Korea's shipbuilding industry, which is already suffering from a lack of business, that they will keep falling behind Chinese firms in the future.
An official from the shipbuilding industry added: "Even foreign container shippers have admitted that Chinese shipyards' technology and price competitiveness have caught up with Korea. South Korean shipbuilders used to rank first to seventh in the top 10 list. However, only the big three made the top 10 list now with many Chinese and Japanese firms included."