Dutch govt, maritime sector pledge €60 million to turbocharge shipbuilding innovation

The Dutch government has launched a sweeping maritime manufacturing industrial policy in collaboration with the maritime sector, aimed at driving the transition to cleaner energy and ensuring economic and military security.

Image credit Damen

The effort, unveiled in Rotterdam on October 26, sets the stage for a joint investment of €60 million in innovative shipbuilding over the next two years and addresses critical challenges and opportunities within the maritime sector.

The sector agenda, presented by envoy Marja van Bijsterveldt, highlights the urgent need to bolster the Netherlands’ position in the global shipbuilding industry, laying the foundation for a resilient and sustainable future.

As a result, the government and maritime sector have committed to a joint investment of €60 million in innovative shipbuilding between 2024 and 2025.

This sector agenda outlines critical strategies for reinforcing the maritime sector, addressing vulnerabilities, and enhancing safety and infrastructure resilience.

One pressing concern is the deficiency in competitive construction capacity for naval ships and specialist work vessels. To rectify this, the government and the sector will allocate €30 million each for technological and sustainable innovations over the next two years.

The sector and the government will collaborate on 25 measures to address 25 bottlenecks, categorized into five lines of action. These measures include instructions to prioritize national interests in ship procurement, improving financing and fiscal regulations, and safeguarding shipyards against housing construction. The sector will also address the staff shortage issue.

To invigorate the sector, five frontrunner projects will be developed jointly. These projects will focus on integrating new technologies, working methods, and revenue models in ship production, conversion, and repair.

Some of the leading projects include ‘The shipyard of the future,’ aimed at reducing construction costs and enhancing sustainability, and ‘Nuclear propulsion of ships,’ exploring nuclear technology applications for sustainable shipping.

One of the projects includes also the Maritime Master Plan, which has secured an injection of EUR 210 million from the National Growth Fund this year. The initiative aims to construct up to forty sustainably sailing ships that operate on a range of alternative fuels, including LNG, methanol, and hydrogen, and feature innovative self-CO2 capture technology.

As the average age of the global fleet hovers around 22 years, with ships typically having a lifespan of about 30 years, a significant demand for replacement vessels is anticipated within the next seven years. The Sector Agenda also positions the maritime sector in the country to meet this impending demand head-on.

Marja van Bijsterveldt, the cabinet envoy, emphasized that the Dutch maritime manufacturing industry has, in recent decades, seen a significant erosion of its global market share for commercial seagoing vessels, particularly to Asia. She underscored that the price of building a ship in the Netherlands is currently 20% to 40% higher than in Asia, making a compelling case for immediate action to reverse this trend.

Minister Micky Adriaansens, responsible for Economic Affairs and Climate, emphasized the imperative of investing in an innovative and sustainable economy to preserve the Netherlands’ liveability, prosperity, and competitive edge. He cited the maritime sector as a prime example of an industry facing unique challenges related to sustainability, national security, and global competitiveness.

Arnout Damen, CEO of Damen Shipbuilding Group said the policy was good news for Dutch maritime Industry.

“The government and the industry are joining forces to further strengthen Dutch shipbuilding with a strong focus on sustainability and security,” he said, adding that the agenda highlights the significance of shipbuilding for the future of a safe and sustainable country.