German shipbuilding is at risk: orders go to Asia

Dhe crisis in shipbuilding in Germany is coming to a head. In just one year, the industry has lost 16 percent of its jobs. Only 14,000 people are currently employed in the German shipyards, fewer than ever before. "We have to stop this downward spiral, otherwise we will not have the basis for a functioning value chain," warns Daniel Friedrich, district manager of the IG Metal coast, and he warns against a misjudgment of the small shipyard industry: "It's not about the question of whether we continue traditions. It is about the geopolitical ability of Germany and Europe to act.”

In fact, orders have been falling all over Europe for years, while global shipbuilding demand is rising sharply. 85 percent of all orders are in the past year China and Korea, where the maritime industry receives substantial subsidies, warns not only the union, but also the industry association for shipbuilding and marine technology VSM. Even Japan, which maintains high domestic demand, no longer has a 10 percent market share, while Europe as a whole still has 4 percent. According to VSM Managing Director Reinhard Lüken, China's influence is not just limited to the ships. 96 percent of the containers that are so important for world trade now come from China.

Worrying substance consumption

"The strength is still there," said Lüken in view of the rush of trade visitors to the SMM, the world's leading trade fair for shipbuilding in Hamburg this week. "But we have to be careful." Against the background of the expected strong growth in demand, the years of substance consumption of shipbuilding capacities are worrying. The politically set framework conditions would have to be corrected "in order to avoid an irreversible loss of ability".

Lüken refers above all to the importance of the maritime economy in the diversification of energy and raw material procurement. "In Korea, the shipyards are on their knees in view of the many orders for LNG ships," reports Thorsten Ludwig, who analyzes shipbuilding for the Agency for Structure and Personnel Development (AGS) on behalf of IG Metall. In the field of wind energy, too, the music plays elsewhere, he makes clear.

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