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Shipbuilding In the BENELUX Countries

Both Benelux countries involved in the shipbuilding industry, The Netherlands and Belgium, have undergone various reorganizations over recent years, although their future is still not assured as the individual yards fight against stiff competition from around the world for virtually every order.

The main problem is that the industry in Holland is not sure of further government support. Subsidy levels available from the Dutch government are allocated in a package form which has been negotiable each year. Individual yards claim their part of this package dependent upon turnover. It is estimated that subsidies are worth approximately four percent of individual ship contract values. The yards are currently in negotiations with the government for next year's allocation. Many of the yards are hoping that the subsidy level for 1994 will be the same as this year, despite rumors that it will be reduced. However, some have expressed a preference for a change in the subsidy operation, looking at a yard operational subsidy arrangement instead of straight ship contract subsidies. Although many of the smaller Dutch shipowners support their shipbuilding industry, the larger operators play the international market for newbuildings. An example of this is the building program of the Nedlloyd Group, which normally includes various Japanese shipyards.

The environmental lobby in The Netherlands is very strong and many of the yards have replied to this new trend by operating shipbuilding facilities within covered berths. The largest is a Rotterdam's Van der Giessen-de Noord, with other covered facilities at IHC's Klinderdyk Shipyard, Wilton Fijenoord, which is used for repair activities, and the majority of the small shipyards in the Groningen area. The yards are very modern, investment levels showing the confidence the shipbuilding companies have in the future of specialized markets.

Meanwhile, the Belgian government is currently in negotiations with the European Commission (EC) over their involvement in the country's only large shipyard, Boelwerf at Temse. The yard was declared bankrupt earlier this year and was closed for weeks. However, a rescue package was put together, involving various local businesses and the large Dutch conglomerate Begeman Group, and the yard is now once more fully operational. This package would also have to include financial involvement by the Belgian government, the subject of the negotiations. The interruption to Boelwerf s operation caused the yard to lose the prestigious order from Dredging International for the world's largest dredger, the order being placed in Holland's IHC instead. Boelwerf had also recently delivered the last two of a series of four reefer ships for Sweden's Cool Carriers. Meanwhile, the yard is still building product and LPG carriers for Belgian owner Exmar, which uses the building facilities at Boelwerf on an exclusive basis.

SURVIVAL THROUGH SPECIALIZATION The Dutch shipbuilding industry has survived over recent years by entering the specialized vessel construction market. The largest shipbuilding complex, Rotterdam's Van der Giessen-de Noord, has recently been building specialized freightonly ferries, with two ships being delivered to Italy's Finmare Group d two larger, but similarly-designed vessels, ing to North Sea Ferries. The yard's marketing am is currently negotiating with a leading aropean ferry operator for two vessels. Also located in Rotterdam is YVC Ysselwerf, hich also operates a ship repair division, YVC olnes, which counts on the production of three pecialized vessel types—chemical tankers, fish ictory vessels and heavy load carriers—to operte. The yard is currently building two chemical arriers for Swiss owner Vinalmar, and has on rder two fishing vessels for local Dutch owners ind two heavy lift carriers for Rotterdam's Kahn Shipping. YVC Ysselwerf has also recently made significant investments into the shipbuilding operation, a new section-building yard being constructed at Groot Ammers and highly modernized welding systems being installed in the main yard. There is some technical cooperation between YVC and three other Dutch shipyards— Merwerde, Frijsian and Verolme Heusden—to look at specific technical subjects to improve production and productivity. Verolme Heusden is part of the Wilton Fijenoord Holdings BV, which also operates Rotterdam's two largest ship repair yards, Wilton Fijenoord and Verolme Botlek. The yard recently has been one of the front-runners in the development of hatchless containerships, two recently being built for Dutch owners. One of the main examples of specialization is IHC, which operates two yards at Klinderdyk and Sliedrecht. The only ships built by these two yards are dredgers. Current orders at the larger Klinderdyk shipyard include a series of three hopper dredgers for mainland China, and the world's largest dredger, a 17,000-sq.- meter vessel, for Belgium's Dredging International (an order which was taken over following the closure of Boelwerf in Belgium, as previously mentioned). One of the country's most amazing sites is the six autonomously-operated shipyards along the main canal outside Groningen, located in the north of the country. These yards, which comprise Pattje, Van Diepen, Ferus Smit, Volharding, Bodeswes and Bijholt, build shortsea traders mainly for local owners and operate very modern shipyards, the majority of which use covered building operations and side launching techniques. One of the main developments in northern Holland over recent years has been the formation of Conoship, which is a central design and marketing organization for a number of the yards around Groningen and other parts of the north area.

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