EC unveils new strategy for shipbuilding

TajaniFEBRUARY 20, 2013 — Remember LeaderSHIP 2015? Unveiled in 2003, it was the EU shipbuilding industry's grand plan for survival in a tough world where new orders were drying up and newbuilding prices were low and declining in response to large capacity increases in Asia (see archived story).

Clearly LeaderSHIP 2015 didn't work that well for the many European shipyards that have gone out of business since 2003. Still, enough of a European shipbuilding and supplier industry remains for there to be a successor plan called LeaderSHIP 2020.

Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for enterprise and industry policy

The new strategy was unveiled in Brussels today by Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for enterprise and industry policy, together with SEA Europe, the European Ships and Maritime Equipment Association.

According to the European Commission, the new strategy is the result of a close co-operation between the industry, the trade unions, maritime regions, Member States and the Commission.

Today, says the Commission, the European ship and maritime equipment industry employs more than 500,000 people and has an average annual turnover of around €72 billion but faces strong competition, and, like many other industries, the effects of an unprecedented crisis.

The LeaderSHIP 2020 strategy's recommendations range from the wider use of EU instruments to foster new skills, competence and qualifications, to Public Private Partnerships for new maritime research, EIB funding opportunities and smart specialisation strategies in regional policy.

Vice President Tajani told a high level meeting in Brussels today that the new strategy will give a fresh impetus to the ship and maritime building industry, in the areas of innovation, greening, application of new technologies and diversification into new emerging markets, such as offshore wind energy.

What does LeaderSHIP 2020 propose?

The new strategy provides a series of recommendations for the short and medium term, to support sustainable growth, high value jobs and address the societal challenges that the shipbuilding and maritime industry currently faces.

The report proposes actions in four main areas:

Employment and skills

The strategy underlines the problem of skills shortages for the sector and proposes a systematic approach at EU level to map the available skills and to address skill/ and training needs, through the use of EU programs such as the Program for Social Change and Innovation 2014-2020. Member States and Regions should also be involved, especially through the creation of regional networks.

LeaderSHIP 2020 also calls for the effective communication of the long term vision of the maritime industries. Existing tools provided by EU programs and initiatives should be harnessed to promote the attractive image of a career in the European maritime technology industry.

The strategy recommends the promotion of mobility and the exploration of ways to harmonize degrees and accreditation systems in the EU, to meet market needs and improve graduate employability.

Improving market access and fair market conditions

These actions involve international organizations i.e. OECD, WTO and ILO, on IP rights and public procurement. They focus on:

  • The need to redefine the role of the OECD Working Party on Shipbuilding, in order to consider new ways to regulate unfair and unsustainable market practices. This should include monitoring of government interventions and price developments. New methods to reduce capacity and overhaul common rules should also be explored.
  • Designing a broad framework and strategy to include "public values targets" in European public tenders as well as higher levels of innovation, and enforcing greater reciprocity in market opening between the EU and non-EU countries.

Access to finance

Access to finance has become the single most important factor in competing for international shipbuilding contracts. Methods to address issues in access to finance, financing environmental improvements and diversification into new markets include:

  • Making best use of the EIB funding opportunities and possibilities for broadening its lending activities, primarily for projects related to green shipping, offshore renewable energy, and retrofitting.
  • Exploring the opportunity of a potential measure for long term ship financing by the European Commission, Member States, financial operators and the maritime technology industry.
  • Finally, on the possibility of creating a "Blue" Private Public Partnership" (PPP), the strategy calls for the industry to examine the possibility of a "blue" PPP in the light of the European industry structure and respecting state aid rules. Note: Blue is Eurospeak for anything maritime

Research, development and innovation

LeaderSHIP 2020 suggests that industry develops a roadmap for a PPP at EU level (Horizon 2020) to focus maritime research on zero emission and energy efficient vessels and towards zero technical accident vessels as well as emerging market opportunities. The feasibility of a PPP on marine renewable energy could also be explored. Comment: This sounds like a green "blue" PPP.

The possibility of allocating structural funds 2014-2020 for the diversification of the maritime technology industry into new market sectors should be explored by Member States and coastal regions, especially in the context of regional strategies for smart specialization.

Why does the EU need a new strategy for the shipbuilding industry?

The EU shipbuilding and maritime equipment industries, says the Commission, maintain an outstanding ability to design, manufacture and build a full range of high-tech vessels and maritime structures that meet the most stringent environmental and safety requirements. But this sector is also challenged by fierce competition at a global scale and industrial policy must take into account the effects of long and deep crisis in shipping and shipbuilding. The LeaderSHIP 2020 strategy gives an updated policy response to the industry's challenges, to foster the sectoral change needed and contribute to a truly competitive and sustainable industry.

Who is involved in LeaderSHIP?

LeaderSHIP 2020 is the result of a close co-operation between the industry, the trade unions, maritime regions, Member States and the European Commission.

Evolution of LeaderSHIP strategy

The Leadership 2020 initiative builds on the LeaderSHIP 2015 strategy published in 2003 - which emphasised competitiveness, innovation and specialisation in suitable market segments.

Compared to the previous strategy, LeaderSHIP 2020 involves a broadened range of actors: all maritime technology industries and representatives of their clients such as the wind energy industry, the shipowners and the dredging industry. EU Regions were also very much involved in the process and particular attention was given to the potential of "smart specialisation".

Key data on shipbuilding and maritime equipment industry

The EU shipbuilding and maritime equipment industries consist of:

  • Shipbuilding and ship repair: The European shipbuilding industry and ship repair industry is made up of around 300 yards of which more than 80 percent can be considered to be "small to medium" (building ships of 60-150 mt). The remaining yards can be defined as "large." Around 90 percent of the order book is for export markets.
  • Marine equipment manufacturing: The European marine equipment manufacturing and industry (propulsion, cargo handling, communication, automation, integrated systems, etc.) is made up of around 7,500 companies, the vast majority of which can be considered to be "small to medium." Around 70 percent of production is for export markets.

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