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Shipbuilders confident - port industries express caution

Chamber of Industry and Commerce Nord publishes results of survey in maritime industry - shipbuilding has highest employee numbers in four years

The Chamber of Industry and Commerce Nord published Friday the results of a survey in north Germany’s maritime industry and reflected division with the shipbuilding sector expressing optimism despite bleaker business prospects for port industries and ship owners. Foreign demand posed the biggest risk, companies said. Higher energy costs caused by a trend reversal in the price of oil at the beginning of 2016 are dampening business.

“Encouragingly robust” shipyard situation

The business climate index in shipbuilding was clearly more optimistic than in spring 2016 and has increased from 83.2 to 118.2 points. Fritz Horst Melsheimer, Chairman of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Nord and President of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, said: “German shipbuilding has taken a positive view of the Bremen-based Lürssen’s take-over of the Blohm+Voss shipyard in Hamburg. The take-over of the former Nordic Werften – now MV Werften in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania by Malaysia’s Genting group and the ensuing orders has caused optimism in shipbuilding. The number of employees in the sector has reached 16,000 – the highest level in four years. The situation of shipyards in Germany is encouragingly robust in view of the crisis in world shipping.”

Number of insolvencies rising amid shipping crisis

However, shipowners have expressed caution. The economic barometer in the sector has dropped around 13 points to 84.9 points presently. The ongoing shipping crisis, overcapacity in tonnage and problems with ship financing are putting pressure on the sector. Melsheimer pointed out: “Charter rates have dropped in parts and many shipowners can no longer pay outstanding loans. The number of insolvencies continues to rise. As a result, the German merchant fleet will shrink this year as well.”

Sanctions on Russia dampening results

Port industries were less optimistic about future prospects and the business climate index in the sector has dropped from 112.9 to 107.1 points. Handling at German seaports dropped 2 per cent in the first half of 2016 mainly because of decreasing world trade, greater competition with the western ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp as well as sanctions on Russia. Commenting on the Federal Administrative Court’s upcoming hearings in December on adjusting the Elbe river fairway, Melshiemer stressed. “We hope to have a positive verdict on the planned expansion of the Elbe shortly.”

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