Internal hyperlinks for navigation

Article - Maritime Industry

The Maritime Industry


Germany is a country that is very much oriented towards foreign trade. A strong and internationally competitive maritime sector is therefore of great importance for the entire economy as it drives Germany’s competitiveness as a business location and helps safeguard growth and employment. The business community and policymakers seek to ensure that the maritime industry is structurally strong and that it can harness its full potential.

The maritime industry generates €54 billion each year, making it one of the most important sectors of the German economy. The industry is characterised by its modern, high-tech shipbuilding and shipbuilding supply industries – which are often well-positioned in the global markets –, its globally leading shipping companies – particularly container shipping companies –, its high-performance port and logistics industries, its innovative marine engineering industry, and its renowned maritime research and training facilities.

Despite difficult global market conditions, the maritime industry remains a key sector for the future of the German economy. It can help us find answers to the important questions of our time such as how we can transition to a sustainable energy supply, mitigate climate change, protect our environment, and ensure a secure supply of resources. Among the most important sectors of the maritime industry are maritime shipping, ports, shipbuilding, the shipbuilding supply industry, marine engineering, offshore wind energy and maritime research and development. The German government seeks to adopt an integrated policy approach that helps safeguard jobs, economic output and training and thus strengthen the German maritime industry as a whole.

On 11 January 2017, the Federal Cabinet approved the Maritime Agenda 2025 – an extensive maritime strategy that had been presented by the former Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel. This strategy, which was developed jointly by several different Ministries, provides the Federal Government with a long-term framework that will make it possible to shape the future of the maritime industry in a targeted manner, and strengthen Germany’s role as a maritime hub. The Maritime Agenda 2025 sets out a wide range of measures to be deployed across nine fields of action of the maritime industry. The government also seeks to work with the business community to draw up a roadmap that describes the priorities of their applied research funding programmes and how the innovation capacity of SMEs – which form the backbone of the maritime industry – is to be strengthened. This is to help companies maintain technology leadership and tap new growth markets. Digitisation is another key focus of the Maritime Agenda 2025. High-speed broadband connections are to be expanded, not least in ports, and flagship projects (e.g. real-time services in navigation) provided with funding. A special focus will also be placed on sustainability in maritime transport. Here, the Federal Government will provide targeted funding for green fuels and ship propulsion systems. The Maritime Agenda also calls for the development of international environmental standards as this will help to prevent distortions of competition within the industry.

In the run-up to the 10th National Maritime Conference which took place in Hamburg on 4 April 2017, the Federal Government adopted its 5th report on the development and future prospects of Germany’s maritime industry ((in German) PDF, 306 KB) on 8 February 2017. The report describes the current situation in the maritime industry. It also provides an overview of the policies adopted by the Federal Government on maritime shipping and ports, shipbuilding and marine engineering, offshore wind power, and marine research.

Four figures on Germany’s maritime industry


billion euros
Turnover generated by German shipbuilders in 2016

Symbolicon für Dampfer

per cent
Germany’s share of global container shipping capacity (2016)

Symbolicon für Arbeiter

Number of jobs
in Germany that directly or indirectly depend on seaports

> 83.000
Symbolicon für Menschen

Number of employees
that work for the shipbuilding and shipbuilding supply industries

Maritime conferences

The National Maritime Conference – providing a fresh stimulus for the maritime industry

The first National Maritime Conference was held in the year 2000. Since then, this regular conference has become a tried-and-tested forum for dialogue within the maritime industry.

The conference discussed the role that the digital transformation plays for the future of the maritime industry. The 10th National Maritime Conference was co-hosted by Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Brigitte Zypries and First Mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg Olaf Scholz. The Federal Chancellor served as the patron for the conference.

Its motto was: ‘Excellent maritime networking – harnessing the opportunities of digitisation for the maritime economy’. More than 740 representatives from business, trade unions, academia, research, politics and the administration took part in the conference to discuss how the digital transformation can be used to ensure that German maritime businesses remain technology leaders and can compete with the rest of the world. In addition, the conference focused on taking additional action for implementing the government’s Maritime Agenda 2025. This includes promoting sustainability in maritime shipping and looking into the contribution maritime technologies can make to the energy transition.

The 10th NMK saw representatives of the Federal Government, Länder governments, associations and trade unions sign a joint declaration on digitisation. This declaration sets out key fields of action and measures that are to make the sector fit for the digital revolution. These include in particular expanding digital infrastructure, transferring data within the maritime supply chain in a smart manner, providing targeted funding for digitisation under our maritime research and development programmes and introducing international industry standards.

Contact at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy

How does the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy support the maritime industry?

Around 95 percent of the intercontinental trade in goods is conducted by sea. This means that for an export-oriented economy like Germany, having a strong maritime industry is key. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is employing a wide range of different measures to provide support for the maritime industry.

The business community and policymakers seek to ensure that Germany’s maritime industry is structurally strong and that it can harness its full potential.

‘Innovative Shipbuilding Safeguards Competitive Jobs’ funding programme

Over the last few years, the Federal Government and the German Länder have provided targeted support for German shipyards via their ‘Innovative Shipbuilding Safeguards Competitive Jobs’ funding programme. Since the programme was launched in 2005, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has provided a total of €175 million in funding (with €111 million of the funding provided by the Federal Government and 64 million by the German Länder) for the total number of applications approved. This has allowed shipyards to reduce the risk involved in carrying out innovative projects and become more competitive market players. Applications for funding can be submitted to the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (BAFA). The guideline governing the funding programme is published in the Federal Gazette.

Improving German companies’ capacity to export

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is providing support for German shipyards so they can offer their customers competitive financing solutions. Fixed-rate financing at the CIRR rate and export credit guarantees from the Federal Government (Hermes guarantees) ensure that German companies can operate on a level playing field.

Dialogue with the maritime industry

In order to ensure that the maritime industry continues to move in the right direction, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is promoting close dialogue between policymakers and the business sector. The National Master Plan for Maritime Technologies (NMMT) serves as a key tool for coordination and networking.

Keeping shipping routes safe

In 2013, a mechanism for the licensing of private-sector security companies was launched. This means that since 2013, private-sector security companies have been able apply to BAFA to undertake armed deployments on ocean-going vessels. By introducing this mechanism, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has made sure that ship owners have more legal security when they deploy private staff to protect their crew and vessels against pirates, and that shipping routes become safer.

LeaderSHIP strategy

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is continuing to develop its LeaderSHIP dialogue which allows stakeholders from across all industries to discuss priorities for research and working methods.

Maritime Conferences

The Maritime Conferences – which are held every two years – are a good opportunity for the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy to join with all the relevant stakeholders to devise measures that help strengthen Germany’s position as a maritime hub. The 10th National Maritime Conference was held in Hamburg in 2017.

10th National Maritime Conference

Focus on the sector

The current situation of Germany’s maritime industry

More than other sectors, Germany’s maritime industry is closely connected to the global economy and global sea trade. This makes the maritime industry particularly vulnerable to global economic changes and fluctuations.

The situation of the German shipyards further stabilised in 2015. Although turnover considerably decreased, falling by 20 per cent compared with the previous year, the volume of orders reached its highest level since 2008, and now stands at €13 billion. Employment figures also improved by 1.4 per cent, rising to 18,100 employees.


In 2015, German shipyards (with more than 50 employees) generated €5.1 billion in turnover – a level which had not been reached since 2012/2013. Many shipbuilding companies have managed to make the structural changes needed to adapt to a changed market environment in a difficult market.

Shipbuilding and offshore supply industry

Germany’s shipbuilding and offshore wind energy supply industry is largely characterised by small and medium-sized enterprises. It accounts for around 400 companies and around 67,000 employees and generates €11.7 billion in turnover. Germany’s suppliers have a technological edge, which they seek to maintain and further build on by continuing to invest in research and development. There are particularly good prospects for selling green products and technologies.

Merchant fleet

The number of German merchant vessels decreased in 2015, falling by 299. At the end of 2015, Germany had 3,015 merchant vessels – which represents a market share of 7.9 per cent and means that Germany has the fourth-largest merchant fleet. Germany is an international leader when it comes to container vessel capacity, with the country holding 29 per cent of the market share.


As an export-oriented nation, Germany depends heavily on its seaports for generating economic output and creating jobs. As many as 300,000 jobs depend directly or indirectly on the German seaports. In 2015, the volume of goods handled in seaports decreased slightly by 0.1 per cent, reaching 296.2 million tonnes.

Marine engineering

Marine engineering is a fast-growing sector within the maritime industry. It comprises offshore technology for extracting oil and gas, offshore wind energy, underwater technology, environmental and safety technology, aquaculture and mariculture and mining the seabed for mineral resources. Although the share that German companies have in this market today is rather small, these companies often have a high level of technical expertise and great potential for innovation.

Further information

Port, symbolic of the maritime industry; Source: Wentzel