European Green Deal, retaining expertise and maritime sovereignty

“Maritime Trends” lecture series on current topics in the maritime sector
16 April 2021

The maritime sector is an important mainstay of the German economy. It is one of Germany’s most important economic sectors, employing some 400,000 people and generating a turnover of around 50 billion euros. For Germany as an export nation, maritime transport is an important part of the infrastructure. Two-thirds of German exports leave Germany by ship. Across the world, 90% of goods are transported by sea.

“In the past weeks, we initiated a series of events in which we started the discussion on current topics for the maritime sector in very informative concise morning rounds”, reports Claus Brandt, managing director of the German Maritime Centre.
“We succeeded in attracting extremely renowned speakers right from the start”, he notes happily.

“With their keynote speeches, they created the basis for a short and crisp discussion that left the participants with a multitude of ideas for the day”, says Runa Jörgens, advisor shipping at the German Maritime Centre, who planned the first round of the series together with Brandt. “It is important to us that we talk to the shipping sector about the constant change it is undergoing”, says Brandt.

The Maritime Trends event series offers an informative start to the day on current topics in the maritime sector.

The first events focused on the European Green Deal (18 March 2021), retaining expertise (25 March) and maritime sovereignty (8 April).

European Green Deal
Achim Wehrmann from the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) started off by explaining the importance of the EU Commission’s European Green Deal for the maritime sector from the ministry’s point of view.

The European Green Deal aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, while at the same time boosting the economy, improving people’s health and quality of life and protecting nature.

Wehrmann emphasised that there was broad agreement within the EU to implement the goals formulated within the framework of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine for climate and environmental protection in maritime and inland navigation.

The European Green Deal has many starting points and aims, for instance, to provide incentives and promote innovation. One example is the EUFuel Maritime initiative announced by the EU Commission.

From a technical point of view, climate-neutral maritime and inland navigation is feasible by 2050. Nationally, there are a number of funding programmes and measures, e.g. for the modernisation of coastal ships, the LNG Funding Guideline, the support of innovative port technologies and digital test areas, as well as the promotion of on-board and shore power. Alternative drives and fuels play an extremely important role in this.

As part of the economic stimulus and future package, 1 billion euros has been made available by the federal government in addition to the existing programmes to promote, among other things, maritime research and development as well as fleet renewal of public authority ships and to enable conversion to environmentally friendly propulsion systems and refuelling ships for alternative fuels.

Lightweight construction, innovative materials and electrical systems have considerable potential for improving energy efficiency.

It is important to avoid and prevent distortions of competition.

Retaining expertise
In the second event, Dr. Karin Kammann-Klippstein (president of the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency/BSH) spoke about the need to retain expertise in the maritime sector. This is under serious threat in several areas due, among other things, to the progressive sell-off of large German companies.

Even though the number of ships flying the German flag has stagnated at a low level for years, the German merchant fleet (the fleet operated by German companies) is the fifth largest in the world, and in the case of the container fleet, it is even the largest in the world, accounting for 16.4% of global capacity.

1,844 merchant ships are owned by German shipping companies, which employ about 86,000 people in Germany and thus contribute significantly to the retention of maritime expertise. Worldwide, they employ about 480,000 people. Brokers and insurers also support the maritime sector as service providers and thus contribute to the retention of German maritime expertise.

According to Kammann-Klippstein, 70 to 80% of the added value of a ship built in Germany is generated by the nationally based medium-sized supplier sector. Shipbuilding and port technology achieve an annual production value of more than 23 billion euros in the value chain. This is fifth place in international comparison.

She was concerned about the pressure caused by the increasingly aggressive appearance of heavily subsidised Asian shipyards, which are pushing into the market niches in which German shipyards have established themselves on the world market.

It was good, she said, that the German government classified naval shipbuilding as a key technology in February 2020. It has thus ensured that there is protection against direct investment from third countries and that construction contracts no longer have to be put out to tender across Europe.

Although ports are considered critical infrastructures, the People’s Republic of China is already involved in or has bought up several European ports (e.g. in Greece and Italy) as part of the “New Silk Road”. China is now a systemic competitor for the EU. It is good, she noted, that the Innovative Port Technologies research initiative spearheaded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has been extended until 2025 to strengthen the competitiveness of German ports and to counteract financial bottlenecks.

The BSH president attaches particular importance to retaining and promoting German maritime personnel. It is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit young people for training in maritime shipping. Qualified junior staff must be better promoted.

According to Kammann-Klippstein, the appeal of the profession must be made more visible. The sea blindness that prevails in Germany and begins about 50 kilometres from the coast must be overcome.

Maritime sovereignty
The third event began with a keynote from Norbert Brackmann, the federal government’s coordinator for the maritime economy (Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs/BMWI). He spoke about how technological sovereignty could be secured in collaboration with and in the maritime economy and contribute to value creation in Germany.

Brackmann emphasised that the COVID-19 pandemic had shown that Germany had functioning transport routes, functional and expanded ports, maritime infrastructures, and secure sea routes and supply chains.

To ensure that this remains the case, safe ships, open and piracy-free seaways and secure data transfer are essential – this is the only way to guarantee the competitiveness of the maritime economy. Extensive investments are needed for this.

A clear European position is needed on the extent to which Europe wants to allow direct investments by state-controlled foreign companies in critical maritime infrastructures.

Resilience and technological sovereignty are the central basis for the functioning of the European industrial society. It is important to protect European companies from unfair trading practices in order to prevent distortions of competition. It is not about protectionism, but about improving the underlying economic conditions, deepening the internal market and ensuring stronger networking and representation of maritime interests – and consequently a European maritime initiative.

The upcoming transformation process to improve environmental and climate standards offers opportunities, said Brackmann, as Germany is one of the world market leaders and has a still-closed European value chain in the field of environmental technologies.

It is important that the maritime sector uses the funding so that it can provide emission-free solutions for all ship types and services by 2030, he said.

“We will continue this successful morning format”, said Claus Brandt. “We received a large number of interesting suggestions for topics and discussions from the participants, which we would like to take up in late summer and develop into food for thought.”

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Press contact:
Dr. Regine Klose-Wolf
Leitung Kommunikation
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