Home' Ships and Shipping : June 2011 Contents © BAIRD PUBLICATIONS LTD 2011
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EDITORIAL JUNE 2011
Inote that Mr Werner Lundt, the managing director of the German Shipbuilders
Association VSM, recently gave vent to his and his association's frustrations over
their perception of Asian price dumping with respect to special purpose vessels.
As I have written previously, "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".
This old saw is particularly appropriate in the context of protectionism, government
assistance, dumping and similar forms of market interference.
While German shipbuilders have over many decades earned a very fine reputation
for innovative design and the high quality construction of a wide range of ships,
particularly special purpose ships, my hypocrisy alarm is ringing loudly after reading
Herr Lundt's comments.
Having not recently studied the subject, I am not aware of what, if any, government
support is benefiting Germany's builders of special purpose vessels. However, I am willing
to bet that they all benefit in some way from Federal or state government largesse.
As with their counterparts in Italy and Finland and probably a number of other
European countries, the only way that Germany's leading passenger ship builder, for
example, is able to enjoy his continuing share of market dominance is thanks to the
support of one or another arms of German government. I understand that the EU has
expressed its disapproval of such arrangements on a number of occasions.
Government assistance or interference can cut both ways. In a perfect world there
would be none of it and we would all be better off. Even in the imperfect world that we
currently inhabit, I suspect that those of us who live or operate in countries that have
minimal government interference, either positive or negative, are way better off than those
who have to suffer it.
A lot of such government involvement is inspired by unions. In the long run that rarely
does anyone any good, even most union members. I am sure that America's ship building
industry, for example, would be much better off without the extreme and obscene
protection provided by the Jones Act. My Asian ship owner and ship builder friend was
quite correct when he said: "We Asians owe European and American unions a lot"!
Many leading German companies have been very successful pioneers in investing
in and benefiting from Asian production. I have in mind GL, the engine and gearbox
manufacturers and many more. They have taken a long term view. Their quality,
their ideas and their excellent reputations have helped them to gain a very strong
foot hold in Asia. The eastward drift of the global maritime industry has repaid their
investments very handsomely.
German shipbuilders would do better by following the lead of their mechanical
engineering compatriots. The designers and builders of those excellent German special
purpose and other vessels would be better off moving their production to lower cost Asia
than whining about dumping.
Shipping is a global industry operating in a truly global village. The world's ship owners
and the environment would also benefit by a closer engagement between Germany's
shipbuilders and their Asian counterparts.
In other words, don't try to beat them, join 'em!
In late April we published a blog under this heading on our website
www.bairdmaritime.com. It was written by Andrew Guest for BIMCO.
Lifeboats and their many deficiencies are an old obsession of mine. It is good to see
someone like Mr Guest and my many friends at the Nautical Institute who are
To me it is tragically illogical that such an important item of "safety" equipment as a
lifeboat can be so dangerous to those practicing it deployment. There must be a better way
of overcoming this major fatal problem.
I know that liferafts provide a practical answer. They are, however, not much use if
there is fire on the sea or if they are exposed to the elements for lengthy periods.
A large part of the problem with the current generation lifeboats is that they are
required by regulations to be big, bulky, and, so, very heavy. Really, much of the problem
has been created, or at least worsened, by regulators. Both the International Maritime
Organisation (IMO) and national jurisdictions are at fault here.
"Deathboats" are, therefore, a global problem. Perhaps we should be looking for a
similarly global solution. How about one or two of the world's leading ship owners or
marine insurers or P&I Clubs putting up a substantial annual prize for the best new lifeboat
Obviously, the appropriate place to start would be in making lifeboats very
significantly lighter and, preferably, more compact. The same applies to their deployment
and recovery equipment.
This should all be readily achievable. The world knows enough about modern
plastic composite construction techniques to make substantial advances here.
Imaginative and innovative young designers should be able to effectively squeeze some
"quarts" into pint pots.
There is much to be done to change "deathboats" into lifeboats. It would be great if a
self-interested philanthropic ship owner could turn on the taps of encouragement.
The perils of protectionism
"Deathboats", not lifeboats
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