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EU shipyards call for 180-degree turnaround in shipbuilding policy

Caption: © Meyer Werft

10,000 ships out of Europe by 2035! This is the goal of the association of European shipyards, Sea Europe, which is calling for a “180-degree turnaround in European shipbuilding policy”.

The German Shipbuilding and Ocean Industries Association (VSM) and its European partner organisations in the Sea Europe Association have presented an ambitious plan for a 180-degree turnaround in European shipbuilding policy. The aim is for Europe to remain “safe and strong in the maritime domain”, quickly become climate-neutral and maintain and develop its maritime industrial capabilities. [ds_preview]

In 1998, the EU decided to ban subsidies in shipbuilding. Efforts to establish international trade rules for shipbuilding were unsuccessful. At that time, the European shipbuilding industry still produced around five times as much ship tonnage as China. Within twelve years and with the use of more than €200bn in state funds, the tonnage produced in China had grown from 1.1 million CGT to over 20 million CGT. Another 15 years have now passed. Today, around ten times as many ships are built in China as in Europe.

“Endangers the industrial capacities of European shipyards and the entire supply chain ecosystem”

The decline in merchant and offshore shipbuilding due to the long-standing distortion of competition from Asia has not only jeopardised the industrial capacities of European shipyards, but also undermined the entire supply chain ecosystem, which includes equipment, systems and technologies, and impaired the capabilities of naval shipbuilding, according to Sea Europe.

Christophe Tytgat, Generalsekretär des europäischen Werften-Verbands SEA Europe
Christophe Tytgat, SEA Europe

“Due to significant price differentials of 30% to 40% combined with favourable financial incentives – especially from Chinese banks – European shipowners have increasingly opted for Asian yards. As a result, European shipyards are experiencing a significant decline in orders. This development not only poses a significant economic risk, but also undermines Europe’s strategic autonomy, especially in view of the current geopolitical tensions,” explains Sea Europe.

Shipyards want to invest €10bn

Secretary General Christophe Tytgat: “It is imperative to restore European shipbuilding capacity by securing orders from shipowners, including European shipowners. The transition to sustainability and digitalisation in shipping and the blue economy is a promising opportunity for Europe to outperform the global competition in terms of quality, efficiency and safety. Our goal is clear: by 2035, we want to provide 10,000 sustainable and digitalised vessels for strategic sectors of the European blue economy.”

Reinhard Lüken VSM Verband für Schiffbau und Meerstechnik
Reinhard Lüken, Managing Director of VSM

“A maritime industrial strategy for Europe is overdue. We want to meet the huge demand in Europe and are prepared to invest heavily in this. Maritime sovereignty is existential for Europe. However, it will only work if the necessary technology is mastered, continuously developed and produced,” explains VSM Managing Director Reinhard Lüken.

In order to achieve this goal, the industry wants to invest €10bn, but is calling for adequate framework conditions. The EU’s political decision-makers urgently need to adopt a maritime industrial strategy in the interests of Europe’s strategic autonomy. The association intends to present its political recommendations on 17 April in the European Parliament at an event co-organised by MEPs Catherine Chabaud and Pierre Karleskind.

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