It is true that many of the orders to build this new generation of sophisticated and innovative vessels land with Asian shipyards, which does give a risk of undesired knowledge transfer and losing another market segment to Asian shipyards. However, the huge renewal demand also provides the opportunity for Dutch, and other Western European shipyards, to re-capture a part of the market and to broaden their market share.
At the moment, we are far from utilising the maximum capacity of the (northern) Dutch and German shipyards. A number of the Northern Dutch shipyards, like Ferus Smit, Royal Bodewes and Thecla Bodewes do, however, regularly show that it is possible to fill their building capacity with short sea cargo vessels in a competitive way in North Western Europe. Building these ships provides significant advantages, but also requires that a number of conditions are met.
As Rick Brinkman, senior naval architect at Ferus Smit Shipyards states in his interview with Schuttevaer: ‘Building in Europe is back in the interest of shipping companies. This is due to higher delivery reliability and the elimination of various risks. We really notice that more requests are coming in as a result. It doesn’t help that banks, in general, are increasingly categorising shipbuilding as “risky”.’
A large part of the latent capacity of Dutch yards is formed by relatively small shipyards, which are now involved in section building or the production of small workboats. These shipyards frequently struggle to provide the required refund guarantees to build vessels for cargo vessel owners, who are backed by banks and finance houses. New ways of providing the security of a refund guarantee can be developed, and are under discussion. This will, however, require support from national and local governments.