German yard spirits rise as business picks up

23 Sep 2010
Three more ferries for Sietas

Three more ferries for Sietas

Welcome newbuilding orders, impressive completions and some positive corporate moves against a background of improving markets have revived spirits this autumn in German shipyards, writes Tom Todd.

Most yards have work to do and many are either already producing special ships or targeting them as pundits cite evidence of rising demand. As markets look up, some yards have even also found takers for new ships laid up last year when owners pulled out of orders.

 “The demand for modern, economic ships is rising again after a year of decline in 2009”, said Werner Lundt, head of the shipbuilding association VSM. In the same breath, however, he and Community of European Shipbuilders Association (CESA) chief Bernard Meyer warn that the crisis is not over and that the risk from Asia remains great.

The latest orders include one from Denmark for Hamburg’s Sietas Werft worth €60 million for three 100m double-end ferries for delivery between summer 2011 and early 2012. They bring to eight the ships on order at Sietas as of September: four for delivery this year and early next.

Sietas said the forward delivery times of the new ferries meant some short time at new year for some of its 640 staff, but that was not so bad for a yard threatened with total collapse just a short time ago.

Sietas was completing a ro-ro cargo ship for Norden-Frisia as The Motorship went to press. In November, it will hand over the 12,500dwt heavy-lift Svenja to SAL. Sister Lone was following early next year. It is also building a second dredger for Möbius up to 2012.

Kiel tanker specialist Lindenau booked its first newbuilding since it became insolvent in 2008. It has held its head above water since then with maintenance and officials said the new order for a 51.5m coastal bunker called Ebba from Reederei Glüsing was “enormously significant”.

MD Dieter Kühne told The Motorship in early September “more projects are being worked on” and revealed “we hope to sign a further contract in the near future”. Kühne said the 540 dwt, 620m3 newbuild “will be the smallest ship built by the yard in decades and we would like to become increasingly active in this sector in future”. No doubt with relief he also told The Motorship that Ebba financing was secured and that building would begin in November.

The new ship is being designed, engineered and built entirely by the yard for delivery next April.

Lindenau said that demonstrated that despite bankruptcy it remained a reliable system vendor from design to delivery and was still able to develop, build and deliver tankers of 300-50,000 dwt. Ebba was “an innovative design with a high quality standard”, the yard added.

Elsewhere, the German Sail Training Foundation DSST ordered a €15 million, three-masted sailing ship named Alexander von Humboldt 11 to replace the existing famous old barque of that name. Reportedly the first windjammer to be built in Germany in 50 years, she will be completed in 2012 at the Bremer Werft BVT, on the site of the old Bremer Vulkan.

The biggest new order is for another 71,300gt cruise club ship for AIDA, and this has gone to Meyer Werft at a very good time. As recently as April, and despite cruise ship and gas tanker work in hand to 2012, Meyer said that “because of a lack of follow-up orders” short time work, mainly in design, was possible. The new order will, at least, have averted that.

For delivery in Spring 2013, the new ship is the seventh from Meyer for the German Carnival subsidiary in six years. Meyer is also building two sisters for AIDA for delivery in 2011 and 2012 as well as cruise ships for Celebrity and Disney and a gas tanker.

The yard also has to be among the front-runners for another possible passenger ship order from Indonesia, even though it poured water on reports in September that it had all but bagged the €100 million contract.

Government maritime co-ordinator Hans-Joachim Otto confirmed Berlin was studying an Indonesian Government request for favourable development aid credit for a modern ferry.

Otto said he was hopeful Djakarta would order in Germany, adding that given current global competition, it was not really important which German yard got the job. Meyer tops the list of yards with good Indonesia links, having delivered 24 passenger ships, five freight-passenger ships and a gas tanker since 1958.

Meyer subsidiary Neptun Werft in Warnemuende cannot complain about current work either. It was building A-Rosa Brava, its third 135m river cruise ship, for service from next April to follow sisters A-Rosa Aqua and a-rosa viva. Also being built up to June is a 135m cruise ship for Viking and there are options for two more ships for completion up to 2012.

River cruise ships also have something to do with the more stable situation now at Volkswerft in Stralsund. That yard has just delivered one 135m ship to Premicon and will build five more, four of them by next April. It has also begun work on two 62,000gt ro-ro ferries for Scandlines, its biggest job for many years, ensuring jobs to 2012.

Volkswerft could also be the only yard in Germany this year to have booked container ships: it is building two, of 2,478 TEU, for Arkas for delivery next year.

The activity follows the merger this summer of Volkswerft and smaller sister Peene-Werft in Wolgast and the creation of the new P+S Werften, whose managers say they will target special and offshore ships.

Former owner Detlef Hegemann was pressed by the authorities into selling the well-booked but financially insecure yards to the HSW trust and holding concern in Frankfurt. The third yard in the former Hegemann Group, Peene-Werft subsidiary Rolandwerft in West Germany, has since been acquired by the Lürssen Werft.

The creation of a trimmer P+S Werften promises production and financing security and will have come as a relief to many. It is the latest in a flurry of recent yard ownership switches which have reshaped Germany’s shipbuilding landscape yet again.

There will be relief in another group newly affected by change - east Germany’s renamed Nordic Yards (ex Wadan, ex Aker Yards, ex MTW) - now that financing has been assured for a €100 million ice-breaking tanker already being built for Russia’s Norilsk Nickel.

Earlier reports that the financing was in place proved cruelly premature for employees of the yards in Wismar and Warnemuende. They have been on tenterhooks since and many of the original 2,400 workers have already lost their jobs.

Confirming the tanker financing in September, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state government head Erwin Sellering said he hoped it would now be easier to finance more ships. Nordic Yards head Vitaly Yusufov has said talks on further orders are well advanced.

As construction of the 15,000gt Russian tanker got underway Nordic was also completing Stena Britannica, the last of two 62,000gt ferry ships for Stena Line. The ship, and sister Stena Hollandica delivered earlier this year, are the biggest freight/passenger ferries in the world. Next year Nordic also starts building its first offshore power converter station for service late 2012.

The latest orders and the return of corporate confidence to some yards have come as smaller facilities continue to turn out technologically advanced ships. The VSM’s Werner Lundt reminded SMM exhibitors that specialised tonnage remains a German forte and that yards are well-placed to benefit from increasing demand.

Current good examples are the new 130m Enercon offshore wind turbine transport E-Ship1 and Germany’s latest Swath ships. Prominent yards, among them Nobiskrug, Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven and Blohm + Voss are also making money building luxury yachts for private owners.

The 12,610gt E-Ship 1 is described by some as the most innovative ship in Germany, if not the world. She embodies a range of features designed to make cargo ships more efficient and economical. Up to wind strength 7-8 she operates on normal diesel electric drive with diesels operating on Enercon drive motors and adjustable pitch propellers.

The ship's exhaust gas boilers are connected to a Siemens downstream steam turbine and when wind strength is higher than 7-8, they drive four Flettner rotors - 27m high and 4m in diameter - giving additional thrust. The Flettner drive is said to save 30-40% fuel at 16knots.

The ship was begun and launched at Lindenau but got bogged down in that yard’s insolvency difficulties during fitting out and was moved to a since-reconstituted Cassens in Emden for completion.

As for the Swaths, the new German pilot station ship Weser has now begun service out of Bremerhaven joining a growing fleet of the versatile twin-hull vessels. At 60.4m, she is the biggest Swath ship built by Abeking & Rasmussen for pilot, customs, offshore and private service.

Powered by four MTU diesels of total 3,240kW providing 13 knots, Weser replaces two old monohull pilot ships. She is now working in the Outer Weser with the 26m A&R Swath tender Wangeroog. Weser sister Elbe, handed over in February, is serving in the Elbe Estuary out of Cuxhaven.

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