Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Recession Takes Toll on European Yards

Germany’s TKMS Blohm + Voss Nordseewerke shipyard at Emden launched its final commercial newbuilding in late December, the small container carrier Frisia Cottbus. Photo courtesy of TKMS.

The recession has started to take hold among European shipyards where several “final deliveries” have been made and a number of facilities closed or converted to other purposes. In Germany, the Blohm + Voss Nordseewerke yard at Emden, part of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), launched its final commercial vessel in late December. TKMS, which owns German shipyards Blohm + Voss, HDW and Nordseewerke, is selling part of the Nordseewerke facility to Siag Schaaf Industrie for the production of offshore wind turbines, while the remainder of the facility is to be limited to naval construction. At the same time TKMS has sold an 80 percent controlling interest in its Blohm + Voss yard to Abu Dhabi MAR, the upcoming Middle Eastern firm that recently purchased three PacifiCat ferries from Canada’s Seaspan (see Pacific Maritime Magazine, January 2010). TKMS is also said to be negotiating the sale of HDW’s commercial shipbuilding unit to a Bremerhaven-based steel fabrication group after a large number of HDW’s container ship orders were canceled.

In eastern Germany the now insolvent Waden yards in Wismar and Rostock are continuing to finish two ro/ro passenger ferries for Sweden’s Stena Line, but these are the only contracts the yard group now holds, with other orders having been canceled. The German government has agreed to provide a $278.8 million loan to Waden to make sure the twin 63,600-gt ro/ros can be completed, but only to preserve local employment.

At the same time, Germany’s Hegemann group has been offered a $29 million loan from the local state government to help protect jobs after the firm announced it would be forced to cut at least 400 positions at its Peene Werft and Volkswerft yards in eastern Germany. The firm has already put its Rolandwerft yard, near Bremen, up for sale because of lack of orders.

In Poland the Gdynia shipyard delivered its final vessel, the 2,732 TEU Sattha Bhum, late last year and has now ceased production. Some of the yard’s holdings have since been acquired by Polish construction company Energomontaz-Polnoc for steel fabrication.

Poland’s Szczecin shipyard has also closed but to date its property has drawn little investor interest.

The government of Croatia has announced a second privatization drive for its six largely bankrupt shipyards, with just one, the Uljanik yard, still considered solvent. Like Poland’s yards, however, the Croatia facilities have drawn little investor interest because of the current economic downturn. In Finland, STX Europe’s yard at Turku has only one cruise ship to complete for Royal Caribbean, which is due for delivery in September, while the Rauma facility has orders for just two ro/ro ferries and a single research ship.

In France, the STX yard at St Nazaire has not won a single commercial newbuilding contract since 2007 and workers have pleaded with the French government for assistance. This is expected to result in a contract to build a third Mistral-class Projection and Command vessel for the French Navy as three existing cruise ship contracts are completed.

In Norway the number of new orders won by Norwegian builders was down 90 percent last year, compared with 2008, and many yards are now surviving only on work “in hand.” With the North Sea petroleum sector still in decline, serious problems are expected to start later this year and in early 2011 as current contracts are completed, with very few of the country’s 25 shipbuilders having orderbooks extending beyond 2011.

The only bright spot in the European shipbuilding sector appears to be Russia, where yards in the Murmansk Oblast region are gearing up for major new orders expected to be placed in connection with development of the country’s massive Shtokman oil field in the Arctic.