The German merchant fleet has shrunk for the third consecutive year and as of September it is down to 3,122 vessels, the German Shipowners’ Association claims.Since 2012, the country’s transport capacity fell by 12% and the number of ships has decreased by almost 17%.“The decline in our commercial fleet is a disturbing development,” said Alfred Hartmann, President of the German Shipowners’ Association (VDR).According to Hartmann, half of the German shipping companies operate less than five ships in their fleet. For those shipping companies, even the loss of individual ships has serious consequences on the continuity of their respective companies’ businesses.Taking into account the additions through new construction and acquisitions, the German merchant fleet lost 117 ships in 2015, out of which only 13 ships were scrapped. A total of 182 vessels were sold abroad, including 68 container ships.“The vessels sold abroad are now competing with the German merchant fleet,” he said, adding that every ship that is sold abroad, means loss of jobs and value added in Germany.VDR expects that the competition and the brutal cost pressure will remain over the coming years. Furthermore, with the loss of many ships, the maritime cluster also loses German sailors along with their expertise.“Onshore, they are indispensable in the pilotage, ports, as well as in the entire shipbuilding industry and among maritime suppliers, ” he added.VDR also called for removal of obstacles to the wider use of LNG as a clean fuel among shipowners.Namely, only a few German companies are able to invest in LNG-powered vessels due to the high investment costs, which make these vessels up to 25% more expensive.“Without a broad support program of the Federal Government for the construction and conversion of ships to LNG, the barriers to market entry will not removed. So far not a single LNG ship has been brought into operation without government subsidies throughout Europe. Germany should follow that example being a maritime hub,” Hartmann said, urging for removal of legal hurdles related to docking and refueling of LNG in any port.
EUROPE: Rail and port expansion projects lie at the heart of a €50bn spending plan to improve Europe’s transport, energy and digital networks unveiled by the European Commission on October 19. This will form a key element in the EU budget for 2014-20.The Commission said the Connecting Europe Facility ‘will help to create jobs and boost Europe’s competitiveness’ through a series of ‘targeted investments in key infrastructures’. These would address missing links and facilitate greater use of renewable energy. The Commission is proposing a ‘Europe 2020 Project Bond Initiative’ as one of several risk-sharing instruments designed to attract private finance. Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the two initiatives are ‘a perfect demonstration of the value added that Europe can provide’, adding that ‘we are closing the missing links in Europe’s infrastructure networks that otherwise would not be built. This investment will generate growth and jobs and at the same time make work and travel easier for millions of European citizens and businesses’. The Transport element of the Connecting Europe Facility will provide €31·7bn to upgrade infrastructure and eliminate bottlenecks. This includes €10bn ring-fenced for projects in the 14 cohesion countries. The money will be focused on less-polluting modes, notably rail and inland waterways, in order to make transport more sustainable and provide greater travel choices. Suggesting that around €500bn will have to be invested to create ‘a real European network’ by 2050 as envisaged in the recent transport white paper, the Commission has grouped the most important projects into 10 cross-border corridors to be developed by 2030. The Core Network has emerged from a review of the TEN-T programme over the past two years, and will be supported by other feeder routes at regional and national level, which are to be financed largely by member states with some EU support. According to Vice-President Siim Kallas, the €31·7bn allocated for transport will act as ‘seed capital’ to stimulate further investment, with every €1m spent at European level expected to be matched by €5m from the member state governments and €20m from the private sector. The 10 core corridorsBaltic – Adriatic: Helsinki – Tallinn – Riga – Kaunas – Warszawa/Gdynia – Katowice – Brno/Bratislava – Wien – Graz – Klagenfurt – Villach – Udine – Venezia – Bologna – Ravenna Warszawa – Berlin – Amsterdam/Rotterdam – Felixstowe – Midlands Mediterranean: Algeciras – Madrid/Sevilla – Valencia – Barcelona – Perpignan – Lyon – Torino – Venezia – Ljubljana – Budapest – Ukraine border Hamburg – Rostock – Berlin – Praha – Bratislava – Budapest – Arad – Timi?oara – Sofia – Burgas/Turkish border/Thessaloniki – Piraeus – Limassol – Lefkosia Helsinki – Turku – Stockholm – Malmö – København – Fehmarn Belt – Hamburg/Bremen – Hannover – Nürnberg – München – Brenner Pass – Verona – Bologna – Roma – Napoli – Bari/Palermo – Valletta Genova – Milano/Novara – Simplon/Lötschberg/Gotthard – Basel – Mannheim – Köln – Düsseldorf – Rotterdam/Amsterdam/Zeebrugge Sines/Lisboa/Porto – Madrid – Valladolid – Vitoria – Bordeaux – Paris – Mannheim/Strasbourg Dublin/Belfast/Glasgow – London – Paris/Brussels + Dublin/Cork/Southampton – Le Havre – Paris Amsterdam – Rotterdam – Antwerpen – Brussel/Bruxelles – Luxembourg – Dijon – Lyon – Marseille + Luxembourg – Strasbourg – Basel Strasbourg – Danube: Strasbourg – Stuttgart – München – Wels/Linz + Strasbourg – Mannheim – Frankfurt – Würzburg – Nürnberg – Regensburg – Passau – Wels/Linz – Wien – Budapest – Arad – Brašov – Bucurešti – Constanta – Sulina