EU urged to rethink policies on supporting shipbuilding

The German Shipbuilders Association has today called for a fundamental restructuring of the framework conditions for European shipbuilding, as Asian yards and suppliers continue to take custom away from Europe. 

The situation in Germany – and elsewhere in Europe – has become more acutely felt during the pandemic with the sudden drop in demand for new cruise vessels – a last bastion for European shipbuilders. 

“We are all entrepreneurs and prefer to rely on our own strengths and our ability to prevail in fair competition. Unfortunately, state-defined framework conditions play a central role in shipbuilding. As a German medium-sized company, you cannot counter strategic action by the Chinese state. That is why we need an active policy. With the previous framework conditions, there is a risk of irreversible loss of essential shipbuilding skills, ” Harald Fassmer, president of the German Shipbuilders Association and managing director of Fassmer, said today. 

In Asia, with massive subsidies, cutthroat competition is practiced and Europe is not doing anything about it

“It is now about more than bridging the lack of demand as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The European shipbuilding industry has been losing market share for decades because, above all, in Asia, with massive subsidies, cutthroat competition is practiced and Europe is not doing anything about it. That is why the question is now whether the civil shipbuilding industry in Germany and Europe will be able to survive to a significant extent in 10 years’ time,” added Bernard Meyer, managing director of Meyer Werft, one of Germany’s largest shipyard groups. 

The association said today that nations outside the EU have not only recognised the high strategic value and the great growth potential of the maritime industry, but have consistently used it for themselves through appropriate funding.

“Extensive technological and industrial skills are still available to lead the shipbuilding industry in Germany into a successful future. If, however, the decades of distortion of competition continue without a consistent response at the national and European level, the loss of substance in this industry could prove irreversible in the years to come,” the association stated in a release. 

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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