The Egyptians may have earned the credit for building the first ships that were capable of going to sea, but it was the Minoans, on the island of Crete, that became the first seafaring civilization along the Mediterranean Sea. Although not much is known about their ships, their civilization touched parts of Sicily and the Aegean Islands.
The ancient history of the European shipbuilding industry includes the Battle of Salamis. In the 5th century BC< the Greeks used over 370 vessels to defeat a Persian force of more than 1,200 vessels that were under the command of King Xerxes. In that one battle, over 200 ships were lost. Shipbuilding also helped to build the Roman Empire. They were used for trade, colonization, and the occasional battle as well. The amount of trade during the Roman Empire in and around the Mediterranean was so great, in fact, that it wouldn’t be until the 19th century when that level of trade would reappear. Shipbuilding has been a foundation of Europe’s economy for over 2,000 years. Although the types of ships have changed, as have the technologies, its importance to the local economy is still very much the same.
Important European Shipbuilding Industry Statistics
#1. 2016 was the worst year in two decades for the global shipbuilding industry in terms of order intake. The decrease in new orders for cargo carriers accounted for more than 80% of the declines. (Shipyards and Maritime Equipment Association)
#2. As of March 2017, the current global orderbook stood at more than 5,000 vessels and 89.2 million CGT. (Shipyards and Maritime Equipment Association)
#3. Europe is the second-largest contractor in the world at the moment, with 2.7 million CGT. Despite sharp global declines, the European shipbuilding industry was the only orderbook to see growth in 2016. (Shipyards and Maritime Equipment Association)
#4. There were 155 vessels contracted to the European shipbuilding industry in 2016, with new contracts bringing in $18 billion. (Shipyards and Maritime Equipment Association)
#5. 52% of the total value of new global orders were sent through the European shipbuilding industry. (Shipyards and Maritime Equipment Association)
#6. From mid-2016 to mid-2017, SEA Europe member yards increased their reported orders by about 24%. 88% of the new orders received by these member yards were for passenger ships and ferries. (ISL)
#7. 60% of the top European shipyards are currently 100% involved in the building of passenger ships and cruise ships. (ISL)
#8. About 10% of the global orderbook is based in Greece. In 2014, there were new orders for nearly 500 vessels. About half of those orders were for bulkers, which represented about 13% of the global tonnage for that shipbuilding activity. (Eurobank)
#9. The capacity-by yard reached its maximum output levels in 2008, reaching a capacity utilization rate of 85%. Since then, average utilization rates have decreased by about 30%, with 60% of yards having a capacity rate below the global average of 54%. At the same time, more than 300 yards in Europe are experiencing more orders than they have seen in the last 40 years. (OECD)
#10. The European shipbuilding industry provides direct employment opportunities to more than 150,000 people. Germany provides the most opportunities, with more than 17,500 jobs created. France and Poland come next, each providing more than 15,000 jobs. (European Shipbuilding Social Dialogue Committee)
#11. About 100,000 jobs are focused on completing new orders. Another 22,000 people are directly employed in ship repair and various maintenance services. Almost the entire workforce is employed through some form of subcontracting. (European Shipbuilding Social Dialogue Committee)
#12. When indirect employment opportunities are also included, the European shipbuilding industry is responsible for about 600,000 jobs in total. (European Shipbuilding Social Dialogue Committee)
#13. 76% of those employed by the shipbuilding industry are between the ages of 25-55. On average, the shipbuilding industry has a slightly older workforce compared to the rest of European employment. (European Shipbuilding Social Dialogue Committee)
#14. Two out of every three workers within the European shipbuilding industry have some type of high-skill vocational training within the industry. (European Shipbuilding Social Dialogue Committee)
#15. Spain has the highest levels of employee training, with over 30% of the workforce holding a Bachelors’ or Masters’ degree in an industry discipline. (European Shipbuilding Social Dialogue Committee)
#16. Just 2% of the employment opportunities found within the shipbuilding industry are related to technical shipbuilding work. 12% of the opportunities are located in design or engineering functions. (European Shipbuilding Social Dialogue Committee)
#17. Constanta is the largest employment cluster for the European shipbuilding industry, with more than 25,000 people employed. About 7.2% of the European share of shipbuilding is located there. This is followed by Gdansk at 6.53%, Croatia at 4.07%, and Vestlandet at 3.61. (Cluster Observatory)
European Shipbuilding Trends and Analysis
The European shipbuilding industry is experiencing a cycle of steady growth, which began in 2014. How long that growth continues is not known. There are, however, certain challenges that the industry must face in coming years for it to continue experiencing success.
By 2050, the European Union is expected to lose over 48 million people of working age. At the same time, there will be 58 million penisoners added to the population. There will be fewer workers available, paying for more pensions, which will place stress on the system. In 2004, the ratio of working people supporting a pensioner was 4:1. In 2050, the ratio will be 2:1.
With fewer workers available, there will be fewer orders that can be fulfilled by the industry. Fewer orders means lower revenues, fewer jobs, and less overall support. That means the industry must take action today to begin training young people for a future in this industry. Without such an effort, global orders will go elsewhere, leaving Europe struggling to make ends meet.