The European shipbuilding industry is a dynamic and competitive sector both in the EU and on a global scale. It has great importance from both an economic and a social perspective, and also involves other areas including transport, security, research and the environment. The EU promotes its development and addresses competitiveness issues the sector is facing.
Shipbuilding is an important and strategic industry in a number of EU Member States. Shipyards often play a significant role for the regional industrial infrastructure and, with regard to military shipbuilding, for national security interests. The European shipbuilding industry is the global leader in the construction of complex vessels such as cruise ships, ferries, mega-yachts and dredgers. It also has a strong position in the building of submarines and other naval vessels. Equally, the European marine equipment industry is world leader for a wide range of products from propulsion systems, large diesel engines, environmental and safety systems to cargo handling and electronics.
There are around 150 large shipyards in Europe, with around 40 of them active in the global market for large sea-going commercial vessels. Around 120,000 people are directly employed by shipyards (civil and naval, new building and repair) in the European Union. With a market share of around 15% in volume terms, Europe is still vying (with South Korea) for global leadership in terms of the value of civilian ships produced (15 billion Euros in 2007).
In shipbuilding, the level of sub-contracting can go up to 80% in terms of value. The marine equipment industry has an annual turnover (2007 figures) of around €26bn (including naval technology) – of which over 45% is exported, it provides direct employment for approximately 300,000 people, and it possesses a global market share of around 35%.
Historically, the industry has suffered from the absence of global rules and a tendency of (state-supported) over-investment due to the fact that shipyards offer a wide range of technologies, employ a significant number of workers and generate foreign currency income (as the shipbuilding market is dollar-based and a global one). Many of the resulting problems are still troubling this industry and the Commission is actively addressing the issues through a variety of policy measures (especially LeaderSHIP 2015) and supporting studies, for which more information can be found on these web-pages.
A general overview of the world shipbuilding industry and its key characteristics is given in the “Study on the Competitiveness of the European Shipbuilding Industry ” (2009).
A range of maritime services are related to shipbuilding (shipping, inland navigation, seaport services, offshore supply, recreational boating, research and development, education, classification and inspection, bunkering, maritime works, maritime insurance, maritime financing, maritime brokerage, maritime law, crewing, associations, government services, rescue, diving, ship supply). These services account for a direct production value of around 267 billion Euros annually, according to a 2008 Commission study on maritime clusters.
Although shipping is already the most environmentally friendly mode of transport further reductions of emissions to air and water are necessary. The implementation of forthcoming global and European regulation on topics like ballast water, sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions as well as action on climate change offer important market opportunities for the European marine equipment suppliers and shipyards, which are analysed in the study “Green growth opportunities in the EU shipbuilding sector”(2012)