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German shipyard landscape changes again

This year’s consolidation moves in major German yards – just the latest in a recent series – have redrawn the country’s coastal shipbuilding landscape yet again, but this time could have some effect on repair and conversion, writes Tom Todd.

As The Motorship went to press many details of the most recent development – the acquisition of Hamburg’s big Blohm+Voss shipyard by Bremen’s once, but no longer, small Lürssen Group – still had to be revealed. However talks were under way following the swift approval of the takeover by fair trading authorities at the end of October.

Lürssen managing partner Peter Lürssen commented: “We now have the opportunity to gain a comprehensive insight into the existing shipyard structures and to instigate primary steps for our future cooperation. In doing so, we will determine how to use the individual capabilities of the shipyard, secure the balance between all of our sites in the future and together, navigate through the difficult market situation we find ourselves in today.’

In comments earlier to The Motorship, B+V marketing director Marei Winter said: “Lürssen would particularly like to use our shipyard to strengthen its spectrum of repair and refit activities for yachts, naval and commercial ships as well as to enhance the naval newbuilding within the Luerssen group of companies.”

Blohm+Voss will become Lürssen’s sixth, and biggest, shipyard, employing about 2,800 people. Peter Lürssen described it as “a shipyard with a strategically advantageous location and versatile production facilities” adding “We want to use these facilities to complement our existing refit and repair activities and also to offer our customers an ever better service”.

The move was cautiously welcomed initially on the Elbe, but there was some concern over jobs and over how it might impact on B+V commercial repair and conversion as well as its newbuilding sector. The yard is Germany’s prime address for big ship repair and the yard of choice for cruise companies. Some in Hamburg say there must be a shipyard for container and passenger ship repair and economics senator Frank Horch said traditional shipbuilding capabilities must be retained in the port city.

Meanwhile there was an encouraging indication that cruise ship refurbishment will continue at B+V. At the yard until December 15th was the 28,613gt Black Watch. Fred Olsen Cruise Lines announced that the ship was arriving 18 November. It said Black Watch would undergo drydocking and a “multi-million pound” revamp. It announced engineering works, general maintenance and refurbishment and said several new public areas and guest facilities would be created in a “significant investment in refurbishing and upgrading”.


Importantly, given the current situation with Lürssen, Olsen also revealed that “similar refurbishments and upgrades” were expected on its other cruise ships – the 43,537gt Balmoral, the 24,344gt Braemar and Boudicca of 28,388 gt– “in the coming years”. It did not say if the work would go to B+V but it seemed likely. The yard has handled all the ships before and the comment now in connection with Black Watch indicated that possibility. Also in Hamburg, reportedly until well into December for two and a half months of drydocking and repair work was the 6,752gt Hapag-Lloyd expedition cruise ship Bremen.

When The Motorship last looked at B+V activity in May, the 148,528gt Queen Mary 2 was due to arrive for its sixth refurbishment. A comment by Cunard director Angus Struthers at that time is telling – given the situation now. He said the QM2 was “a ship that turns heads everywhere she goes” and yard officials, looking back on ten cruise ship calls in the past year, are keen to ensure they continue.

Among the more unusual repair customers, pointing up the competitive yacht and naval aspect of the Lürssen takeover, has been the 141m luxury yacht Yas, for unspecified “propulsion system” work. By definition the work would appear to have concerned the ship’s two MTU diesels or twin propellers. A second yacht, the 105m Lady Moura, was reported at B+V as of late October for unspecified repairs. The frigate Nordrhein Westfalen – undocked and transferred to berth for fitting, testing and painting – was not really a repair customer. It is being built for delivery in 2018. Finally the 120 year old, 97m sailing ship Rickmer Rickmers came for a  month of modernisation, inspection and repairs costing a reported €1.9 million.

Otherwise customers of late have been the kind of ship in which B+V excels. The biggest was the 112,588dwt container ship CCNI Arauco, at the yard until early December for three months of repairs and steel and paint work. The ship was damaged in a fire in Hamburg in September. Another container ship, the 7,944dwt Maike D, came for drydocking and repairs while the 55,649dwt ro-ro container ship Atlantic Star called for more than a month of guarantee work.

The 8,223dwt feeder Queen B was drydocked for rudder repairs and painting following the installation of two 50 tonne DK111 TTS NMF board cranes at the Pella Sietas yard. The 47,840dwt boxship Toronto Express called for painting, hatch cover repairs and five-year class drydocking which included engine maintenance. Finally the 30,537dwt general cargo ship Red Cedar came for its third scheduled drydocking and class renewal.


As this report went to press, Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven (LWB) was still considering its future position and options while holding its cards close to its chest after a turbulent year. Initially, new owner Genting announced LWB would head a newbuilding group from Bremerhaven, but then changed its mind and switched newbuilding to east Germany creating the new MV Werften group and returning LWB to its former repair, conversion and completion role.

German reports said the about-face had cost a blameless LWB dear – and left it short of work. They said the yard had passed up valuable contracts to gear up for newbuilding. Local officials planning infrastructure investment were also unhappy at Genting’s about-turn.

LWB did however hedge its bets early this year, even at a time when it expected to be doing newbuilding in future. It announced the lengthening of the DFDS ro-ro ferry Primula Seaways and the prospect of options – declaring it would remain active, as well as independent, in acquiring outside repair and conversion work.

The redelivery of the lengthened and repaired 32,289gt Primula Seaways in August demonstrated that LWB has lost none of its longstanding conversion skills. DFDS spokesman Gert Jakobsen confirmed that. He told this correspondent LWB had “prepared the lengthening well, and we are also satisfied with the results”.

It is also possible that the yard might benefit from Fred Olsen’s news that Balmoral, Braemar and Boudicca will undergo refurbishment up ahead. Like B+V, LWB has also handled all three ships in recent years. Indeed it has also handled the Olsen Windcarrier offshore  installation ships Brave Tern and Bold Tern.

The prospects for further acquisitions could even be further improved at LWB and other yards by the fact that all three big-dock east German yards making up MV Werften in Wismar, Stralsund and Warnemünde have dropped previous repair activity. “We are now concentrating solely on newbuilding”, MV spokeswoman Susanne Meyer told The Motorship.

Having said that, however, the current reality appeared gloomy at LWB as this report was written. There have been other ships in dock for maintenance and repair in recent months – among them the 109m icebreaker and research ship Polarstern, a regular caller – but the yard has said nothing about any work since Primula Seaways.
Options for further DFDS conversions, mentioned by LWB early this year, have also come to naught. Jacobsen said “at the moment we have no plans to lengthen further ships”.

He added the Daneish company was “satisfied with the four vessels now lengthened” – a reference to Primula and three earlier ships also converted in Bremerhaven. The decision not to convert more “should also be seen in conjunction with our decision to build new ro-ro ships” in China and at FSG in Germany, Jacobsen told The Motorship.
Another significant rebuild and conversion hope has also been dashed for LWB. It had been reported negotiating the restoration of the legendary transatlantic liner USS United States and its conversion into a cruise ship, but Genting subsidiary Crystal Cruises decided the “technical challenges” were too great.


Neighbouring German Dry Docks (GDD), which was part of a three yard alliance involving LWB until Genting took over, had no comment on future ties with its former partner. GDD managing director Guido Försterling did however tell The Motorship that as far as German shipbuilding in general was concerned “the market situation throughout the entire sector remains tense, and the situation in the repair shipyards is the same”.

As part of a bid to face that situation, GDD has now merged with remaining yard alliance partner MWB Motorenwerke Bremerhaven to create a single German Dry Docks company. Försterling said pooling skills would allow the two to offer “the complete package of services for ships and propulsion systems more efficiently than before”. GDD, which has access to nine docks in Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven, said the merger was being seen “as a response to rapidly growing challenges on the international market for maintenance, servicing, repair and conversion of ships”. GDD will continue to market docking, repair and retrofitting services while an engines and machine technology division will function as MWB Power.

Like its neighbour, GDD has also been busy with DFDS tonnenage of late. The 24,196gt ro-ro ferry Selandia Seaways underwent work including extensive overhaul and maintenance of one of its two 1,100kW bow thrusters, propeller blades and stern ramp. It also got a new company livery and GDD project head David Porath said follow-up orders for further DFDS ro-ro ferries were possible.

Briese’s heavy 14,418dwt cargo and project load ship BBC Pearl came for extensive overhaul of its auxiliary diesels and main engine, an STX MAN 6S46MC-C diesel. An unusual caller was the former Navy floating crane Jade Hiev. The 52.5m long Voith-Schneider propelled unit underwent class work including sea valve overhaul, wall thickness measurement, coating and sub-surface hull inspection.

The 33,005 Brazilian juice tanker Carlos Fischer spent a month at GDD for extensive class renewal, docking and repair. GDD reported “a very extensive and ambitious repair and overhaul programme”. The underwater hull and forepeak – a total surface area of 17,700 m2 – were blasted and conserved. The 7m long 30 tonne propeller shaft had to be drawn and rudder, propeller hub and blades dismantled and remounted. Thruster, rudder system and shaft generator overhauls were undertaken as were steel works and class maintenance.

At Bremerhaven’s other main repair yard – the Bremerhavener Dock (BREDO) – spokesman Michael von Häfen told The Motorship that “looking back, the yard has enjoyed satisfactory dockings and associated workload”.

Von Häfen singled out two floating crane visitors as particular highlights. The giant units – Enak and Uglen – came in for general dry dock work. Owners Bugsier say Enak is Germany’s strongest floating sheerleg crane and capable of moving individual weights up to 600 tonnes. The Norwegian-owned Uglen, belonging to the JJ Ugland Group, has an even bigger 800 tonne lifting capacity.

Two fisheries ships were among other recent visitors for general dry docking work. They were the 63.1m research vessel Walter Herwig and the 72.7m patrol and research ship Seefalke. Among other callers were the 8,800dwt container feeder Dance, the 7,097 ro-ro cargo ship Corsica Linea Dui and the 7,380dwt general cargo ship Trina. Two UECC car carriers, the 19,094gt Auto Bay and the 19,107gt Auto Bank, also called.

04 Nov 2016