One can hardly imagine such a situation: A Russian ship engineer tells his Ukrainian colleague on a cargo ship that his daughter died in a Russian bombardment in Ukraine. Such or similar tragic entanglements exist on board seagoing ships, said Gaby Bornheim, President of the German Shipowners' Association (VDR) on Wednesday in Hamburg at the presentation of the annual figures for 2022. "Amazing against this extremely difficult background: the seamanship on board the ships of our member companies is still very good.” Around 5,000 seafarers from Russia and the Ukraine are currently working on board German seagoing vessels.
So far, 62 ships with a total of 364 seafarers are stuck in Ukraine's Black Sea ports, which have been blocked by the war, including a ship from Germany, said Bornheim. “We are very concerned for the seafarers who, even after a year of war in Ukraine, have still not been able to return home. We appeal to everyone involved to allow the seafarers to return to their home countries as soon as possible.”
From the point of view of the VDR, there is no doubt that the strict trade sanctions of the European Union must be observed by the member companies, said Managing Director Martin Kröger: "We call on the companies to comply with the sanctions, which do not contain any loopholes or ambiguities leave.” German shipping supported the sanctions regime against Russia “unreservedly”.
In recent months, it has repeatedly appeared as if international shipping companies were operating, if not illegally, at least in a legal gray area. For example, when shipping companies from the EU transport Russian coal, which has not been allowed to be imported into the EU since August, but can be imported into other countries. There is a similar situation with deep-frozen, liquefied natural gas (LNG): Russia continues to export natural gas to Asia with an intermediate station, for example in the Belgian LNG terminal Zeebrugge. Transporting this LNG from Europe to Asia is not illegal, but it does help bolster Russia's wartime economy. However, said Kröger, German shipping companies currently operate "not a single LNG tanker".
The war has an impact on all international merchant shipping. For example, the share of energy transport has increased since Europe began importing LNG by tanker to replace the Russian pipeline gas that had failed. 40 percent of the world merchant fleet is currently transporting energy, and the trend is rising, said Bornheim.
Trade routes and points of contact for seaborne energy transport would change in the medium term against the background of the war and the sanctions against Russia. "The best preparation for changing supply needs and future crises is for Germany to further strengthen its merchant fleet and its leading role as a leading maritime nation," said Bornheim. This gives Germany the necessary reliable access to international trade, to raw materials and preliminary products from all over the world: "Shipping is undoubtedly a critical infrastructure and also ensures that the population is supplied in the event of a crisis."
In view of many crises, including the long-term effects of the pandemic, German shipping with its current 294 shipping companies can look forward to a good year 2022: The number of ships owned by Germany fell slightly to 1839, in 2021 it was 1917. With 618 container ships and one With a market share of 10.7 percent, however, Germany continues to operate the largest fleet in this segment of sea shipping, measured by the number of freighters. This is also remarkable because the German merchant fleet – currently the sixth largest in the world – shrank by almost 40 percent between 2012 and 2022. The fleet of merchant ships in the People's Republic of China grew by 140 percent over the same period, and the fleet flying the flag of Hong Kong - which is part of China - by 75 percent. 278 ships are currently sailing under the German flag, three more than in 2021. The total number of seafarers in Germany who are subject to social security contributions rose slightly to currently 7079 people. The number of German seafarers grew by 200 to 4540 people.
One of the major challenges for German shipping in the coming years will be the transformation of the industry towards more climate and environmental protection. In the past two years, the pandemic has caused significant bottlenecks in the international shipping market. As a result, after many years of crisis, the profits of many small, medium-sized shipping companies in Germany increased again. The VDR now expects a normalization of the ship markets - with at the same time sharply increasing environmental and climate protection costs.
Kröger said that the capacity of scrapping and recycling yards alone would have to double worldwide in the next ten to 15 years in order to be able to cope with the necessary modernization of the international merchant fleet. Above all, they rely on the large scrapping yards in Bangladesh and India. Their standards have improved significantly in recent years: "The standards at the shipyards in Alang, India, for example, are now very close to the standards in Europe and Turkey." It is important that the shipyards in South Asia also have the necessary in future Certification for the scrapping of ships registered in the EU, said Kröger. That is not yet in sight.
In addition, there will be sharply increasing costs for shipping in the medium term for switching to less climate-damaging or climate-neutral fuels. The spectrum ranges from LNG to methanol, ammonia and synthetic marine diesel, which would be produced on the basis of regeneratively produced hydrogen, said Kröger: "We do not believe that there will be just one fuel, but a variety of technological ones Alternatives.” However, it is already clear today: “The phase of cheap sea transport will be over when we start decarbonizing our merchant fleets.”