Sustainable and smart vessels are requested

Netherlands Maritime Technology sector sees light at the horizon

Activity in the Dutch maritime technology sector, which consists of over 100 yards and 800 maritime suppliers, rose slightly in 2018. Total turnover increased to €7.3 billion, some €400 million more than 2017. The total employment was 29,072 FTEs, an expansion of almost four percent compared to the previous year. Higher turnover does not always translate into a major growth in profit, however, and price levels remained under pressure in many companies. “Many new orders were received and vessels completed in the Netherlands during 2018,” comments Bas Ort, chairman of the trade association Netherlands Maritime Technology (NMT). “The focus right now is on complex and innovative vessels and we’re working with a huge diversity of designs. Our builders of seagoing vessels have had quite a hard time in 2018. It’s a testimony to their perseverance that they have never stopped innovating and attracting orders for new types of ships, despite the challenges. In this sense, they remain the undisputed spearhead for the sector.”

Around the world, the upward trend in the order intake for seagoing vessels continued into 2018. However, even with the new orders, there is still not enough work to keep all the yards around the world in business. The consequences of this have been apparent in forced bankruptcies, mergers and increased government support, particularly in South Korea, China and Japan. “We saw minor improvements in the Netherlands in 2018 compared to 2017, both for Dutch yards and suppliers,” Ort continues. “A small step forward but not one that came easy to the sector, which is being more creative than ever.”

Strategic importance of putting maritime sector on map
The maritime industry is a strategic sector with considerable social importance. “Governments, both in The Hague and Brussels, must recognize the strategic role of our sector and act accordingly,” Ort underlines. “We need to be able to remain globally competitive. A sector-specific industrial strategy for the maritime technology sector is very important in this context. The innovative capacity and strategic knowledge in the Netherlands need to be preserved, for instance by the Dutch business community playing a decisive role in the replacement program of the Royal Netherlands Navy.”

Increasing the pace of growth
“NMT wants its members to be able to deliver sustainable, smart vessels and maritime technology in a global level playing field, with highly qualified workers working in safe and fair conditions,” Ort explains. “The Dutch government has a role to play as a launching customer and provider of support for the export activities of the Dutch maritime technology sector. If these conditions are respected, the cautious progress the sector made in 2018 can become a major step forward in the coming years.

“Maritime regulations should help stimulate innovations while remaining flexible enough to be rapidly adapted should developments require this. The shifting policies of different countries have led to persistent market disruptions in shipbuilding. A level playing field, both worldwide and within Europe, is one of the most important and complex issues for which we strive every day.”