There is no questioning the significance of Germany to the world maritime stage. German owners control nearly a third of the international container shipping market, according to Federal Ministry data, and the German shipping industry generates an annual turnover of more than €50 billion. The numbers speak for themselves, but to anyone strolling along Hamburg’s waterfront, the deep regard for all things maritime in Germany is abundantly clear.
There is the museum ship Rickmer Rickmers, the iconic headquarters of Hapag-Lloyd on the Ballindamm as well as Hafen City, built on Grasbrook island, the site of the former port of Hamburg and home to Speicherstadt, the world’s largest warehouse complex.
And then there is the welcome that world shipping receives when it’s time to showcase advances and innovations in maritime – from the biannual SMM tradeshow in Hamburg itself to Munich’s Transport Logistics event. This focus on strong relationships is just as evident at every November’s Eisbeinessen gathering – a highlight on the shipping calendar and an event where dominant forces in the industry chew on gossip and insight while feasting on pork knuckles.
For most of us, at one time or another, German shipping manages to win our affections and thereafter, it is impossible to ignore the sector’s competence and capability. For Nick Brown, LR CEO, its embrace came when he was just starting his maritime career and it was formative in his shipping education.
“Germany was my first overseas posting as a young graduate trainee surveyor. Back in 1997, I was working in the LR plan approval office in Hamburg on Mönckebergstraße and I was able to visit SMM as well as the other messe. I was totally awed by the scale and size of the equipment that was being designed, manufactured and supplied around the world.
“And despite all the challenges that have emerged globally, Germany remains a leading force when it comes to the more innovative, complex and challenging technology applications being delivered worldwide, whether they be 'world firsts' to support decarbonisation progress or innovation in the way vessels are designed and built,” he said.
LR's relationship with German shipping spans 150 years. Today, LR remains involved with significant applications of new technology as the maritime industry faces up to decarbonisation and digitalisation. It is not the first time the sector has had to navigate pressing challenges. It certainly won’t be the last.
A marked feature of the nation’s success in riding the maritime cycle is strong leadership – frequently coming from the fifth or sixth generation shipping families that have been committed to the industry for multiple decades, and in some cases, centuries.
“The German shipowning families tend to keep a lower-profile than some of their peers in other parts of the world. There is a quiet confidence on how they approach change; decisions are carefully considered and industry knowledge and business acumen moves seamlessly from one generation to the next,” says Brown, adding: “They are a backbone of maritime, both at home and away.”
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