Transitioning To The New World Order
historic maritime power, German shipbuilders, repairers and marine equipment suppliers deftly handle cut-throat competition, price pressures and European integration. — by Greg Trauthwein German shipbuilders and marine equipment suppliers have built a strong reputation in international markets using engineering excellence as its foundation. The German market has shown an amazing resilience in the face of incredible competitive pressures from the Far East and from the traditional maritime powers within Europe itself. While shipbuilding numbers in terms of gross tonnage built have consistently dropped in the last 20 years, Germany has staunchly held its position among the world's elite, building 4.7 percent of the world's shipbuilding tonnage in 1996, ranking it third among world leaders.
In addition, the traditional powers of the West have weathered the sometimes difficult assimilation of new colleagues/ competitors from the East. Also, faced with quality vs. quantity and cost, the German manufacturers have unflinchingly maintained the highest engineering standard in the quest to provide long-term maritime solutions which are still marketable, rather than cave in to pressures to "cut corners" in an attempt to lower prices and increase market shares. Make no mistake, however, that this has not come without some pain. Germany, like many developing countries, has seen a radical change in the composition of its manufacturing base, with an increased emphasis toward downsizing and outsourcing. Despite all of the ups and downs of this notoriously cyclical market, Germany has maintained an impressive market share of highly-valued, highly complex vessels. It has done so, primarily, through the strong infrastructure of its countrymen and the worldwide maritime community as a whole, with relationships among shipowners, designers, suppliers and builders laying the groundwork for the ability to develop, design and produce highly specialized high-technology ships. On the eve of arguably the world's most important maritime event — SMM, which is held every other year in Hamburg — MR/EN offers a closer look at some of Germany's top maritime players.