The Dutch shipbuilding industry for seagoing vessels is in dire straits. Several shipyards have gone into the red and the order intake in 2019 amounted to just 351 million euros, a 45 per cent decline compared to 2018. This follows from the Sector Annual Report 2019 of trade organisation Netherlands Maritime Technology (NMT).

Overall, turnover in the maritime manufacturing industry is lower than hoped for, according to NMT. In addition, this year’s outlook has been sharply revised downwards due to, among other things, the corona and oil crises. All this comes on top of the aftermath of the economic crisis in 2008, from which the maritime sector is still recovering. ‘A major challenge awaits us,’ says NMT Chairman Bas Ort.

‘Compared to 2018, a year that we still called “a small step forward”, no significant further recovery was seen in 2019 and the chances of improvement in the future have been significantly reduced,’ Ort adds. ‘The continued existence of our maritime sector now faces multiple threats. In addition to the corona crisis and the uncertainty about oil price developments, I am mainly talking about the lack of a global level playing field.’

Ort wants the Dutch government and EU to strengthen the maritime industry. He says this must be done in four ways: stimulating innovation; creating a global level playing field by taking unilateral measures and ensuring access to financing; the government should act as launching customer by selecting sustainable, smart ships and spend Dutch taxpayers’ money with Dutch companies as much as possible; and investing in professionals.

Shipbuilding suffers from fewer dredger orders and loss-making projects

Most of the decline in the shipbuilding order intake (for ocean-going ships) can be explained by fewer new orders for large dredgers. In terms of compensated gross tonnage (CGT), the order intake is just over half the amount of work these vessels represented in 2018. The decrease in the number of ordered tugs and workboats ordered seems to have been halted, however (from 36 in 2017, to 17 in 2018 and 16 vessels in 2019), as did the decrease in new orders for support vessels for the offshore and wind industry which began last year. The order intake of shortsea vessels is the only one showing a slight increase, with thirteen new orders placed mainly with shipyards in the north of the Netherlands.

The order book fell by five per cent to 1.76 billion euros. This decrease is limited because the number of ships delivered also decreased from 55 to 43. The order book still contains a number of large complex (unfortunately loss-making) projects with an expected delivery in 2020. At the end of 2019, the Dutch order book stood at 66 vessels with a total tonnage of 373,651 CGT. A decrease compared to the 403,769 CGT of one year earlier. In order to maintain knowledge and employment, it is extremely important that sufficient new orders will be added in 2020, stresses NMT.

Maritime suppliers and repair industry

The total turnover of Dutch maritime suppliers rose to 3.8 billion euros in 2019, compared to 3.5 billion euros in 2018. Estimates show that approximately 65 per cent of the turnover was generated by exports. The price levels in 2019 remainedvunder pressure, and the competitive field is still challenging. The number of in-house employees increased from 17,318 in 2018 to 17,574 in 2019.

The trend towards increased sustainability and digitisation continued in 2019. The far-reaching specialisation of Dutch suppliers and their focus on vessel types with lots of complex equipment once again proved successful, according to NMT. Suppliers also increasingly focus on the digital monitoring and maintenance of equipment.

The total turnover of the Dutch maintenance and repair yards in 2019 amounted to 429 million euros, a slight increase compared to the previous year (2018: 416 million euros). The sector employed 1655 people (2018: 1751). Employment figures have decreased as yards have to operate more flexibly and efficiently to avoid going into the red in the current market.

The number of large refits and conversions is still low compared to a few years ago. The cruise and offshore industry in particular are segments that have this type of work carried out. The cruise ships continued to pass the Netherlands by in 2019 due to unclear interpretation of the term “riding crew” by the Dutch government. The offshore industry has had difficult years and is still reluctant to invest. The offshore wind industry, various navies and yachting have yielded some nice orders. However, competition is fierce within the marine repair industry, both within Europe and beyond. In addition, there are increases on the cost side in various areas.

Inland navigation, fisheries and small seagoing vessels

Apart from the yards that focus on the production of seagoing vessels with a tonnage of more than 100 GT, there are several yards that build other specialised vessels. These range from large cargo ships for inland shipping and river cruisers to small port tugs and pilot boats up to 100 GT. This category also includes seagoing fishing trawlers.

Overall, 2019 was a reasonably good year for this segment. In 2019 yards in this category received orders for 238 ships (2018: 185). 182 ships were delivered (2018: 183), almost the same in numbers as in 2018, but with a substantial increase in GT and monetary value. Whereas the number of deliveries remained stable in terms of numbers, the number of new orders shows healthy growth. The order book grew from 140 ships in 2018 to 198 ships in 2019 with a total value of 1379 million euros.

In 2019, 58 cargo vessels were delivered, an increase of 35 per cent on the 43 vessels delivered in 2018. The number of contracted ships also increased from 63 in 2018 to 76 in 2019. For passenger vessels (river cruising and tour boats), the number of delivered vessels rose from seven in 2018 to eleven in 2019. The order intake in 2019 again saw solid growth with nineteen vessels – luxury river cruisers are as popular as ever.

The number of delivered fishing boats increased from eight in 2018 to thirteen in 2019 – similar to the order intake in previous years. The intake was stable at thirteen new orders in 2019 compared to twelve in 2018. In addition, there were various repairs and refits on the trawler fleet in 2019, albeit less active than in previous years.

The order intake for vessels in the “commercial vessels and small dredging equipment” category shows a healthy growth: in total there were 125 new orders in 2019 compared to 94 in 2018. This rise in orders is mainly caused by the small dredging equipment sub-segment, with an impressive 87 new orders and 75 deliveries. The market for commercial vessels is causing some concern, while tugs and pushers for inland shipping saw more positive market conditions in 2019 than in 2018.

In 2019, there were lots of maintenance and repair activities in inland shipping with the slipways and docks well occupied. Due to uncertainty about the timely availability of EU Stage V engines with capacities over 300 kW, this work included a large number of new installations of CCR2 engines.


At 4.0 billion euros and 51 yachts more than 24 metres long, the value of the order book remained fairly stable, because the value of the completions is virtually the same as the value of the order intake. The order intake in 2019 consists of sixteen yachts with a value of just over 1 billion euros and a total of 55,927 CGT. The number of deliveries in 2019 is down sharply by seventeen vessels compared to 2018.

The vessels that were ordered are larger and ever more exclusive. In addition to the trend for increasing superyacht sizes, there is also a growing interest in sustainability, such as the application of hybrid propulsion systems and innovations in design and material use. In addition, various yachtbuilders invested in new production facilities suitable for building even larger yachts.