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In a statement issued yesterday, VSM said that not only the shipyards are affected, but the entire value chain: In Germany, around 2,800 companies and around 200,000 employees are active in shipbuilding and marine technology.

With the corona pandemic, the high dependency of civil shipbuilding in Germany on the cruise segment suddenly came into focus, because the lack of orders for cruise ships makes the huge gap in the other market segments even more visible. According to VSM, German medium-sized companies had no chance against the massive distortions of competition that emerged again in the wake of years of weak global demand for cargo ships.

“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. The previous framework conditions threaten the irreversible loss of essential shipbuilding skills,” explained Harald Fassmer, VSM President and Managing Director of Fr. Fassmer.

“It is now about more than bridging the lack of demand as a result of the corona crisis. European shipbuilding has been losing market share for decades because, above all, in Asia, with massive subsidies, predatory 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 ten years’ time,” added Bernard Meyer, Managing Director of Meyer Werft.

“The most demanding ships and boats in the world are built in German shipyards and are equipped with German machines and systems. German companies have excellent know-how along the entire value chain of the shipbuilding industry, which is now urgently needed for maritime transformation and climate protection. We have to use the existing technological lead to quickly implement the climate goals – through investment and financing instruments for the construction of a modern, effective, environmentally and climate-neutral fleet in and for the EU,” Uwe Lauber, CEO of MAN Energy Solutions said.

For all these reasons, in addition to short-term support measures, VSM is advocating a fundamental discussion of developments in the shipbuilding market. It says 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 European Union has the largest single maritime market in the world. The geography of our continent provides for an abundance and variety of economic activities on and under the water. That is why we in Europe have it in our own hands to use our entire range of maritime capabilities for growth and sustainability. But for this we need a fundamental restructuring of the framework conditions for European shipbuilding so that a level playing field can finally be created,” concluded VSM General Manager Dr. Reinhard Lüken.