SEOUL, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s oceans ministry said Thursday the country’s shipping segment is expected to recover its sales to the levels before the industrywide slump a few years ago.

The combined sales of the local shipping industry could reach 40 trillion won (US$36.2 billion) this year, compared with 36 trillion won tallied the previous year, according to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

Sales of the country’s shipping industry came to 39 trillion won in 2015, but they sharply lost ground in the following years after Hanjin Shipping Co., once the world’s seventh-largest shipper, tumbled and dealt a fatal blow to the industry.

The annual sales reached 29 trillion won in 2016. Hanjin Shipping went bankrupt in early 2017.

South Korea estimates the size of the shipping segment will continue to grow down the road to reach 51 trillion won in 2025 in sync with the recovery of the virus-hit business sentiment.

The country also plans to expand financial loans to small and medium-sized carriers to help them better overcome the COVID-19 fallout.

The ministry, meanwhile, plans to use more ships to help exporters facing troubles from a hike in freight costs amid soaring demand.

At least two ships with a combined capacity of 8,000 twenty-foot equivalent units will be deployed every month until the freight costs are stabilized, the ministry said.