Permanent crisis threatens german shipping industry

Permanent crisis threatens german shipping industry

"With the permanent withdrawal of important ship banks, the charter industry is practically being unplugged."The entire maritime sector in germany is in danger of collapsing and germany as a maritime location is losing its position in the world. The impact on the economy as a whole and on jobs has been severe.

German shipowners manage around one-third of the world’s containership fleet, more than 1700 ships. They employ 73,000 seamen on board and 23,000 workers on shore. Most of the 400 or so shipping companies are medium-sized enterprises with only a few ships at their disposal. They do not transport cargo, but charter their ships to the rough international liner shipping companies.

Since 2008, the international shipping industry has been in a tailspin. Because too many ships have been ordered, there is far more shipping space than demand for transport. As a result, shipowners can only achieve very low charter rates on the world market and can hardly cover operating costs or pay interest and repayments. Around six percent of the global containership fleet is currently completely idle.

Under pressure of higher capital requirements, banks are now withdrawing from ship financing. "In addition to the low charter rates, there is now an existence-threatening lack of debt capital," said behrendt. The first to be affected are the small shipping companies with few ships, where cash flow and collateral are still available. These are the very companies that had worked with the banks for decades and were now left out in the cold overnight. "I think that’s extremely unfair," said the association president, who himself heads a liner shipping company and is therefore less affected by the law.

The market will take about two years to come back into balance, according to the predictions of leading institutes and analysts. Then global supply and demand will be brought into line again. "The prospects for shipping are good in the medium term," explained behrendt. "The question is: how many charter shipping companies will get there and how many will fall by the wayside??" The industry demands help from politics. The federally owned bank k is to step into the breach temporarily to keep jobs and maritime know-how in germany. However, the federal minister of economics, philipp rosler (FDP), has rejected this proposal.


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