Germany must safeguard and strengthen its maritime and national sovereignty. To this end, the maritime industry intends to become an international driver of transformation in the areas of automation, digitalisation and decarbonisation, and to limit climate change. It is important to maintain and increase maritime know-how. How this can be achieved, which steps the maritime industry, as well as policy-makers, administration and science, must actively take, were discussed by around 100 participants at the “ Maritime Transformation – Paving the Way for the Future” conference, organised by the German Maritime Centre (DMZ) at the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) in Berlin.

In her welcome address, Daniela Kluckert, Parliamentary Secretary of State at the BMDV, emphasised that as a trading nation, Germany is dependent on a powerful and internationally competitive maritime industry. The maritime industry in its entirety, encompassing shipbuilding, suppliers, ports and shipping, plays a pivotal role in enabling Germany to trade, produce and provide services while contributing to the preservation of national sovereignty. For this reason, as Kluckert points out, German shipyards must continue to produce competitively in order to maintain their pioneering role in technology. There is no doubt that maritime shipping is an indispensable component of global logistics chains. “The transition to sustainable alternative fuels is essential for a fundamental decarbonisation of international maritime transport. German ports are important energy hubs,” said the Secretary of State.

Kluckert stressed that “the main topics of the German Maritime Centre are more relevant than ever, from alternative fuels and autonomous maritime systems, to attracting young talent through to competitiveness and regulatory development.” With the range of diverse event formats on offer, steps are being taken to ensure that all stakeholders engage in conversation with one another – as was the case at the conference with the BMDV. She promised: “I will closely follow the future path of the German Maritime Centre, whose work and expertise I greatly appreciate.”

In her keynote address “Maritime industry – where to?”, Dr Monika Griefahn, former Minister of the Environment for Lower Saxony (Chairwoman of the Board of eFuel Alliance e.V) encouraged the industry to become even more actively involved in the transformation process towards climate-friendly technologies. “I am familiar with the maritime industry and I know that it is capable of rapidly contributing to environmental and social expertise. It is inevitable that the industry will go global on defossilisation,” said Griefahn. It is to be expected that in the future there will be not just one, but many alternative fuels and energy sources. Griefahn pointed out the commitment of individual companies “to enter the circular economy in times of limited raw materials”. Last but not least, she made it clear that many jobs will undergo a shift due to “automation, digitalisation and AI. These changes in in the labour market will necessitate new skills and well-qualified specialists”. She said that a qualification initiative under favourable conditions is necessary.

Representatives from the shipbuilding, shipping, ports/infrastructure and maritime services sectors explained their positions in four keynote speeches.

Harald Fassmer, President of the German Shipbuilding and Maritime Industries Association e.V. (VSM), said in his address that it was important to bring the diverse maritime landscapes in Germany closer together and to develop joint solutions in order to increase the impact of maritime issues. Otherwise, he said, the maritime industry would run the risk of gradually losing its competitiveness when operating individually. He stressed: “The maritime energy transition is not, as is often said, primarily a question of propulsion systems or fuels. The key to achieving our goals lies in the efficiency of the entire shipping sector. This is beneficial for the German maritime industry in all its facets. While being inexpensive may not be our strong suit, efficiency certainly is!”

Dr Gaby Bornheim, President of the German Shipowners’ Association (VDR), pointed out that a country like Germany, which is poor in raw materials, needs “”secure access to maritime trade and a steady supply of raw materials for the transformation it is striving for”. Maritime shipping is both “the key and the lock to a CO2-neutral future”. She called for the production of climate-neutral fuels and the associated approval procedures to be accelerated. “For the maritime energy transition, we need market-ready technologies that are commercially viable and are accessible to a wide range of ships worldwide,” stated Bornheim.

Prof. Dr Sebastian Jürgens, Vice-President of the Central Association of German Seaport Operators e.V. (ZDS), emphasised in his speech that the port industry sees itself as an active driver of the transport and energy transition, extending far beyond the maritime industry. He stated: “As a society and as a matter of policy, we need to become much faster and more proficient in implementing our plans for the future.”He called for the Federal Government of Germany to acknowledge its responsibility: “The national as well as the European dimension of the transformation processes clearly show that port infrastructure cannot be the sole responsibility of the federal states and local authorities that lie along the coast.”He said it was therefore important to formulate clear and ambitious goals in the National Port Strategy.

The Chairman of the Board of the German Shipbrokers’ Association e.V. (ZVDS), Jens B. Knudsen, underlined the importance of a functioning infrastructure in achieving decarbonisation, describing it as a legitimate and important goal for the shipping industry. It is undeniable, Knudsen said, “that sea freight is the most environmentally and climate-friendly mode of transport in terms of volume.”He warned: “Should these volumes be shifted to other transport systems such as truck or rail, it will be impossible to stop climate change and it will not only be supply chains that break down. Therefore, it must be clear to all parties involved:No Shipping – No Climate Protection.”As a prerequisite for achieving these goals, Knudsen called for an efficient infrastructure. The Federal Government must make great efforts to achieve this and provide the responsible authorities with adequate personnel and financial resources.

The discussion then turned to how the German maritime industry can take on a pioneering role internationally in the necessary transformation. This particularly applies to decisions on which propulsion systems to use in the future and how existing personnel can be recruited, further qualified and equipped with “green skills”. When it comes to future emission and fuel regulations, politics and administration play a crucial role. Participants agreed that the major challenges need to be tackled across all organisations in close cooperation with policy-makers, administrators and social partners.

The second part of the event began with a statement from Dieter Janecek, the Federal Government Coordinator for the Maritime Industry and for Tourism at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK). He emphasised that the accelerated expansion of offshore wind energy presents enormous opportunities for Germany as a maritime business hub. “The development of production capacities for offshore wind helps us to reduce dependencies and holds enormous potential for value creation,” Janecek said. A large number of converter platforms, turbines, foundations and special offshore vessels are required. The Federal Government is working hard to improve the regulatory framework for the ramp-up of production, focusing on areas such as financing. Janecek emphasised that the issue of training and attracting skilled workers is central to the survival of the maritime industry, but also to achieving the goals of the energy transition. “Therefore, we must maintain and, where possible, expand study and training places, and facilitate targeted immigration. The Skilled Immigration Act, which was passed by the Cabinet in March, is an important step in this regard,” stated the maritime coordinator.

In the subsequent panel discussion, Metin Hakverdi, Member of the German Bundestag (MdB) (SPD), Dieter Janecek, Dr. Iven Krämer (Bremen University of Applied Sciences), Marita Krems (MAN Energy Solutions), Frank Schäffler MdB (FDP) and Maja Schwiegershausen-Güth (ver.di – United Services Union) discussed the “Transformation of Maritime Labour”.

The main topics were: freedom of competition, openness to technology and promotion of digital structures; transformation to alternative fuels with parallel solutions during transitional periods; social and economic challenges of the transformation process for a resilient, sustainable maritime economy; lack of well-trained, qualified personnel; and streamlining regulations. There was consensus regarding the important role of the maritime economy in ensuring the security of supply and maintenance of prosperity, the guarantee of maritime sovereignty, and the success of the energy transition.

Claus Brandt, Managing Director of the German Maritime Centre, concluded: “One of our tasks is to encourage lively conversation and exchange between all stakeholders of the maritime industry. We succeeded in doing this very well at this conference. I am pleased about the consensus among the participants to drive forward the transformation and to work together to preserve maritime sovereignty and maritime know-how. The associations want to show even more initiative, while the government wants to improve the regulatory framework and create a protective mechanism for economic stability and political security. I hope that together we can shape the future and mitigate global warming.”

Please feel free to call me if you have any questions about the event. We would be happy to put you in touch with the speakers.

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Bilder: © D.M.Deckbar/Deutsches Maritimes Zentrum

V.l.n.r.: Harald Fassmer, Prof. Dr. Sebastian Jürgens, Claus Brandt, Dr. Monika Griefahn, Daniela Kluckert, Dr. Gaby Bornheim, Jens B. Knudsen

V.l.n.r.: Frank Schäffler, Maya Schwiegershausen-Güth, Dr. Iven Krämer, Minou Amir-Sehhi, Dieter Janecek, Marita Krems, Metin Hakverdi, Claus Brandt