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Maritime industries

Shipbuilding industry: an overview of the sector

Fire rescue boat © European Commission

A competitive and strategic sector for Europe.

The European shipbuilding industry is a dynamic and competitive sector both in the EU and on a global scale. It has great importance from both an economic and a social perspective, and also involves other areas including transport, security, research and the environment. The EU promotes its development and addresses competitiveness issues the sector is facing.

Shipbuilding is an important and strategic industry in a number of EU Member States. Shipyards often play a significant role for the regional industrial infrastructure and, with regard to military shipbuilding, for national security interests. The European shipbuilding industry is the global leader in the construction of complex vessels such as cruise ships, ferries, mega-yachts and dredgers. It also has a strong position in the building of submarines and other naval vessels. Equally, the European marine equipment industry is world leader for a wide range of products from propulsion systems, large diesel engines, environmental and safety systems to cargo handling and electronics.

There are around 150 large shipyards in Europe, with around 40 of them active in the global market for large sea-going commercial vessels. Around 120,000 people are directly employed by shipyards (civil and naval, new building and repair) in the European Union. With a market share of around 15% in volume terms, Europe is still vying (with South Korea) for global leadership in terms of the value of civilian ships produced (15 billion Euros in 2007).

Historically, the industry has suffered from the absence of global rules and a tendency of (state-supported) over-investment due to the fact that shipyards offer a wide range of technologies, employ a significant number of workers and generate foreign currency income (as the shipbuilding market is dollar-based and a global one). Many of the resulting problems are still troubling this industry and the Commission is actively addressing the issues through a variety of policy measures (especially LeaderSHIP 2015) and supporting studies, for which more information can be found on these web-pages.

A general overview of the world shipbuilding industry and its key characteristics is given in the "Study on the Competitiveness of the European Shipbuilding Industry " (2009).

The production of vessels requires a wide range of equipment, materials and specialised services, which are provided by the Marine Supplies Industry. The study on the "Competitive position and future opportunities of the European Marine Supplies Industry" (2014) provides a detailed description of this very diversified industry in Europe and its position in the global shipbuilding industry. Starting from a definition of its various trades, it gives a statistical analysis of the industry in the EU Member States, Norway and Turkey. It analyses the impact of the recent shipbuilding crisis, its impact on production and employment but as well the strategies of leading players to cope with the difficult global environment. The study ends with a forecast for the different market segments for the coming years and a number of recommendations to enhance Europe's leading role in the important part of the maritime industries.

A range of maritime services are related to shipbuilding (shipping, inland navigation, seaport services, offshore supply, recreational boating, research and development, education, classification and inspection, bunkering, maritime works, maritime insurance, maritime financing, maritime brokerage, maritime law, crewing, associations, government services, rescue, diving, ship supply). These services account for a direct production value of around 267 billion Euros annually, according to a 2008 Commission study on maritime clusters.

Although  shipping is already the most environmentally friendly mode of transport further reductions of emissions to air and water are necessary. The implementation of forthcoming global and European regulation on topics like ballast water, sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions as well as action on climate change offer important market opportunities for the European marine equipment suppliers and shipyards, which are analysed in the study "Green growth opportunities in the EU shipbuilding sector"(2012) pdf - 2 MB [2 MB] .

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