Germans urge united front against Asian building threat

Europe's high-tech newbuilding like this German police boat is under threat from Asia Europe's high-tech newbuilding like this German police boat is under threat from Asia

     An appeal for concerted co-operation to prevent Asian and particularly Chinese penetration of high-end European ship production has come from German shipbuilders, writes Tom Todd.

   The call came in the annual report of the German Shipbuilding and Marine Technology Association (VSM) in Hamburg. It said Asian competitors were now increasingly targeting high-tech and specialist niche shipbuilding developed by European yards after losing conventional newbuilding markets to Asia.

   VSM General Manager Reinhard Lüken singled out China. “Discussion has shifted from focussing only on the opportunities offered by China to viewing China also as a rival system”, he said. New Baltic Sea ferries were now being ordered mainly in China “where yards offer discount prices thanks to generous government support”. “This has to change, if we want sustainable, healthy markets", Lüken declared.

   Appealing for European co-operation to halt the Asian threat VSM President Harald Fassmer, said “finding common solutions will help us all strengthen our global capabilities. It is time for Europe to represent its interests in the global arena with great confidence. ... Germany wants a strong maritime industry and is willing to make a significant effort, together with its European partners.

   "We have successfully managed the structural transition towards high-tech shipbuilding. Now it is imperative for us to safeguard valuable capabilities” Fassmer added. ... we cannot resolve the core issues in Germany on our own in the long term. Therefore, joint European action is of great importance to us”.

   Fassmer Werft is one of a number of German yards developing and building sophisticated high-end ships. Fassmer is completing the world’s first government-owned LNG driven survey and research ship Atair, as well as eco friendly police boats and has built Europe’s pioneering LNG/DF passenger ferry Helgoland.

   The VSM said German yard orders had nearly doubled since 2010 despite Asian pressure. The strong orderbook “offers shipyards a solid planning basis to further improve productivity and continue to optimise production in preparation for future challenges”. These, the VSM predicted “are sure to come”.

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