The shipbuilding sector has specific needs which require an appropriate political response. In order to stimulate its competitiveness, the Commission set up the LeaderSHIP 2015 High Level Group to draft recommendations for the sector. In this notice, it presents these recommendations and formulates them in acts.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 21 November 2003: LeaderSHIP 2015 - Defining the future of the European Shipbuilding and Repair Industry - Competitiveness through Excellence [COM(2003) 717 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
In January 2003, the Commission set up the LeaderSHIP 2015 Advisory Group. This group was made responsible for drafting recommendations to improve the competitiveness of the shipbuilding and repair sector. In this notice, the Commission presents the recommendations, divided into eight fields of crucial importance for the competitiveness of the sector.
A level playing field for shipbuilding worldwide
European shipbuilding essentially suffers from unfair competition from certain countries. This takes the form of prices set below cost levels and injurious subsidisation. The Commission therefore approves the following three recommendations made by the LeaderSHIP 2015 Group:
- continuation of the EU's current commercial policy;
- implementation of the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) applicable to shipbuilding;
- negotiation within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) of an agreement on shipbuilding and the application of the existing rules.
Research, development and innovation
In order for the shipbuilding sector to receive sufficient support from the Member States for its research activities, the Commission has adapted the rules governing innovation aid for the shipbuilding sector.
The shipbuilding sector needs substantial financing for both the construction phase (pre-delivery) and the operational phase (post-delivery) of the vessel. However, many banks are losing interest in shipbuilding. The Commission therefore proposes that the European Investment Bank support pre- and post-delivery financing.
In view of the risks linked to markets in foreign currencies, the Commission suggests organising an exchange-rate risk insurance system at European level.
Safety and environment
- the strict application of European legislation and its promotion on an international scale;
- more transparent, uniform, efficient and independent inspections;
- the establishment of a programme to assess the quality of shipyards throughout the world, also covering the construction of new ships and repairs;
- improvements in ship repairs;
- the creation of an expert committee to assist the Commission and the European Maritime Safety Agency;
- exploitation of the potential of short-distance maritime transport.
European approach to shipbuilding needs
The naval defence industry does not have the same needs as the commercial naval sector. The Commission is in favour of creating a common market for defence equipment. It also approves the following proposals:
- the strengthening of cooperation between shipyards, particularly between different Member States. The creation of highly integrated European stakeholders will encourage European competitiveness;
- the harmonisation of export rules by the Member States. Such harmonisation would make it possible to avoid distortions of competition and increase industrial cooperation.
Intellectual property rights (IPRs)
In order to protect the shipbuilding industry from pirating and the violation of intellectual property rights, the Commission supports the following initiatives:
- maximum use of existing IPR instruments (copyrights, registered designs and models, trademarks, patents, specific non-disclosure and cooperation agreements);
- the creation of databases containing information on the state of the art, existing patents, the competitive situation for certain products and the main right holders;
- the examination, and even reinforcement, of international patent rules.
Education and training
In order to keep a skilled workforce and attract young people, the following measures are recommended:
- the development of management training programmes specific to the shipbuilding sector. New management skills will be needed in order to adapt to the new structure of the industry, which comprises a few large businesses and many subcontractors;
- increased sectoral social dialogue should make it possible to meet new qualification needs. The Commission has in fact established a social dialogue committee for the sector;
- the exchange of staff and know-how, university workshops;
- the launch of an advertising campaign to improve the image of the sector;
- the creation of regional centres of excellence to support the implementation of these recommendations. Businesses and educational establishments could participate in these centres of excellence, thus facilitating student exchanges, transfers of knowledge, the dissemination of good practices and the recognition of qualifications throughout the EU.
Building a stable industrial structure
The sector has specific needs which require an appropriate response. The Member States must acknowledge the important strategic dimension of shipbuilding and ship repair in Europe. They need to develop a political approach to the sector in order to prevent its extinction in the near future. Furthermore, for security reasons, it is important to preserve some shipbuilding capacity for both maritime transport and defence.
Lastly, greater cooperation between naval defence and shipbuilding resources in Europe can also help to improve the competitiveness of the sector.