October 28, 2003

EU unveils LeaderSHIP 2015 shipbuilding plan

The European Commission and European shipbuilders today unveiled their "LeaderSHIP 2015" plan for enhanced European shipbuiding competitiveness

The LeaderSHIP 2015 initiative was launched in response to situation in which European shipbuilders face continued low price competition from the Far East, while the cruise ship market, a domain in which EU shipyards excel, still shows only weak signs of recovery.

The initiative makes 30 concrete recommendations drawn up by a high level advisory group chaired by European Commissioner for Enterprise Erkki Liikanen, who says that the LeaderSHIP proposals are "a clear and promising work plan for the future."

The LeaderSHIP 2015 booklet and its translation into all EU official languages and Polish can be downloaded at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/enterprise/maritime/index.htm

Summary of the LeaderSHIP 2015 recommendations

A Level Playing Field in World Shipbuilding

  • Continuation of the present EU trade policy approach with determination.
  • Full enforcement of applicable WTO rules to shipbuilding.
  • Development of enforceable OECD disciplines through a new shipbuilding agreement by 2005 and an unambiguous interpretation of existing rules.

Improving Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) Investment

  • The European dimension of shipbuilding RDI should be strengthened through integrating and concentrating efforts, with the aim to create Technology Platforms. Work being undertaken within the Maritime Industries Forum should form the base for this approach.
  • Shipbuilding should, in substance, enjoy the same conditions as other industries that engage in similar RDI activities.
  • Levels of state aid need to reflect the actual technological risks taken in all phases of design, development and production.
  • New definitions, notably regarding innovation aid, need to be developed where necessary.
  • RDI investment support needs to aim at enhancing European technological leadership and should reward risk taking.

Advanced Financing and Guarantee Schemes

  • Explore the possibility of establishing an EU-wide guarantee fund for pre- and post-delivery financing. The alternative of harmonising standards in EU member states, in line with common market and OECD rules, could also be considered, albeit difficult to fully achieve. Any such tools have to be easily applicable.
  • Export credit insurance companies, covered by appropriate re-insurance, should offer hedging instruments for currency risks.

Promoting Safer and More Environment-Friendly Ships

  • Existing and future EU legislation has to be strictly implemented and "exported" at international level.
  • A more transparent, uniform, efficient and independent system of technical surveys of vessels has to be promoted.
  • A quality assessment scheme for shipyards at world-wide level should be developed, covering newbuilding and repair.
  • Maintaining and strengthening ship repair capabilities in Europe is important to ensure a high level of transport safety and environmental protection. *An expert committee is to be established to provide technical support to the European Commission and to EMSA.
  • The great potential of Short Sea Shipping needs to be exploited through appropriate political and economic framework conditions.

A European Approach to Naval Shipbuilding Needs

  • Joint requirements should be established to shape a number of major projects, enabling co-operation between yards and leading to inter-operability of systems, vessels and fleets.
  • Member states should address the issue of harmonization of export rules.
  • Common rules to create a European market for defense equipment have to be developed, based on the Council's request to create an intergovernmental agency in the field of defense capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments.

Protection of European Intellectual Property Rights

  • The existing instruments for Intellectual Property Right protection (copyright, registered designs, trademarks, patents, non-disclosure and specific collaboration agreements) need to be exploited to the full.
  • Knowledge data bases for shipbuilding, containing information about the state of the art, existing patents, the specific competitive situation for certain products and solutions, and key knowledge holders, should be built and run by dedicated IPR entities.
  • International patent rules applicable to shipbuilding need to be examined and possibly strengthened.

Securing the Access to a Skilled Workforce

  • Programs for shipbuilding-specific management training need to be developed and established.
  • New skill requirements need to be analyzed and addressed, ideally through a sectoral social dialogue.
  • Exchange of staff and know-how needs to be organized on all levels, from shop floor to academia.
  • A publicity campaign, showing the vitality and sustainability of the shipbuilding industry, has to be implemented.
  • Regional centers of excellence could provide crucial input for the realisation of the above recommendations.

Building a Sustainable Industry Structure

  • Non-action is not an option, neither is protectionism: the EU of 25 must further develop its policy approach to the sector, in line with its principles on industrial policies.
  • A consolidation process among European producers should be encouraged, providing incentives to remove less efficient production capacity and thereby freeing resources for new investment.
  • The current closure aid rules in the EU should be scrutinized with a view to a more pro-active approach, based on the idea of "aid to consolidation".

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