SWZ|Maritime’s December issue is traditionally a special with a focus on the shipbuilding industry in a specific country, last year Japan. This time we focused on Europe. Not a state, but a cooperating group of independent states with a lot of the characteristics of a state, not least of which the power that can either make or break.

The EU can support an industry that politicians think is important for the prosperity of Europe or break it when it becomes obsolete. In a sane democracy, politicians should resound the will of the people, but it’s not always that simple when some voices are being heard stronger than others.

Long has shipbuilding in Europe had to fear to be phased out, due to the fierce competition of Asian countries like first Japan and nowadays especially China and South Korea. Competition that was often far from fair as governments in those countries firmly supported their industry with state credits and subsidies.

With that they could easily grab huge parts of the different shipbuilding markets while the EU member states, directed by EC guidelines, strictly forbade every support with their own industries falling prey to unfair competition.

Thanks to this liberal economic policy, most member states lost most of their shipbuilding industry. The construction of cruise ships is practically the only bigger branch in the shipbuilding industry remaining, but now has to fear the consequences of the corona pandemic and again the greedy economic policy of China.

European maritime policy

But lately, especially with the election of French President Macron, European leaders realised that too much liberalism can also turn against you when it comes to maintaining jobs and the prosperity of European nations. This awareness that some industries, especially the maritime, in Europe are too important to be left to the Chinese has led to the Opatija Declaration (11 March 2020) in which the vision for the EU Waterborne Sector is endorsed.

It provides guidelines for the development of the maritime environment, with a focus on supporting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships and further digitalisation. In this edition, Jaap Gebraad from SeaEurope and Marnix Krikke from Netherlands Maritime Technology provide us with some insight in what this new European policy can bring for the maritime sector.

This is editor-in-chief Antoon Oosting’s editorial accompanying the December issue. Read the full issue here.