At a time when even the lowercost Japanese and the aggressive South Korean shipbuilding fraternities are experiencing some difficulties, there are signs of success in the Scandinavian countries.

The shipbuilding industries of each of these four traditional maritime nations are still active, with a few yards doing relatively well.

The Finns, with another spate of Soviet ordering and their own specialization in high technology vessels, are in the best position; the Danish yards are kept going by their special relationships with shipowners; the Swedes and the Norwegians, with their industries organized along radically different lines, both face an uphill struggle.

Scandinavian shipbuilders still have a well deserved reputation for producing high quality vessels.

Recent examples include the "Sea Goddess," a luxury cruise liner yacht, from Finland's Wartsila; the ACL RO/RO container vessels from Kockmus in Sweden; the successful "Multiflex" freight ROs/ROs from the Danish Frederikshavn Vaerft, and the popular UT708 and UT704 offshore support vessels from Ulstein Hatlo in Norway.

Denmark On the face of it, the Danish shipbuilding industry fared relatively well in 1983. Against the background of a slump in world deliveries of over 9 percent in terms of ships, and 17 percent in terms of tonnage, Danish yards increased output to 28 ships (up by four), and 839,940 dwt, an improvement of 21 percent.

Indeed, figures indicate that this relatively high level of work will continue, in the short term at least. The Danish Shipbuilders' Association's annual report for 1983 revealed that there were 36 ships totalling 1,164,823 dwt on order at its member yards on January 1st 1984. In the first quarter of 1984, a further 11 vessels were ordered from Danish yards boosting the tonnage figure by a total of 34,000 dwt.

However, these successes have not been won easily. Yards have been forced to make workforce reductions, and it has been reported that more may follow. The total number of people now employed in Danish shipbuilding is down to around 11,000, representing a drop of some 25 percent during 1983.

A large number of these lost jobs occured at Helsingor Vaerft which, with delivery of two RO/RO vessels for Iraq in the early part of 1983, effectively ceased to exist as a shipbuilding yard.

There is, however, a bit of comfort in this closure story: Helsingor Vaerft was part of the J. Lauritzen group, which in conjunction with Frederikshavn Vaerft A/S— another Lauritzen group member— set up a shiprepair company to operate from the dry docks and quay installations previously used by Helsingor Vaerft.

Situated close to Copenhagen, the yard's location will enable it to take advantage of the heavy ferry traffic between Denmark and Sweden.

The two major yards in the Lauritzen group, Frederikshavn, mentioned above, and Aalborg Vaerft, have both been working— indeed Frederikshavn enjoyed considerable success, and indications are that it will continue to do so.

Frederikshavn's lifeline is the special relationship it has developed with the Danish shipowner Mercandia Rederierne, coupled with the success of its standard design "Multiflex" freight RO/RO.

During 1983, it delivered four 7,000 dwt "Multiflex" vessels, and at the end of the year had another two similar vessels and eight "giant" Multiflex ships on order from Mercandia.

Two more orders, recently announced, bring the number of Mercandia vessels on order at Frederikshavn to 12, and the total of ships for which the company has contracted at the yard over the past few years to a very healthy 70.

Aalborg Vaerft, having done a fine job on a previous vessel for Carnival Cruise Lines, and with good progress currently on a second, the yard might have hoped to pick up something when the American company was looking to order to additional ships during the summer.

In any event, the contract for both vessels went to Kockmus in Sweden. Aalborg Vaerft then had one ship on its orderbook, due for delivery in mid 1985, until the gloom was lifted by a recent order for three 7,750-dwt fruit carriers for the USSR, the last of which is scheduled for delivery in 1986.

An additional bright note was the delivery by Aalborg Vaerft of one of the most talked-about vessels of 1983, the New Zealand Railways ferry Arahura. The Arahura will run between New Zealand's north and south islands, across the Cook Strait, one of the world's harshest stretches of sea.

Aalborg Vaerft is hoping the interest aroused by Arahura, coupled with the yard's already strong reputation for building good-quality passenger ferries, will result in more orders for this kind of vessel.

Both with favourable positions on the east coast of Jutland, Frederikshavn and Aalborg Vaerft constitute the main ship repair industry of Denmark. Frederikshavn has recently increased its maximum capacity from 40,000 dwt to 60,000 dwt while capacity at Aalborg is somewhat greater.

Burmeister and Wain of Copenhagen has enjoyed continued success with its 64,000 dwt Panamax bulk carrier design, with five of these vessels delivered during 1983, including two for Wheelock Marden, and a further four on order at the beginning of 1984. One of the major factors behind the popularity of this class of vessel is its highly economical hull design. It is intended to perform at an average speed of 15 knots, while consuming less than 40 tons of fuel per day. Mass production techniques have enabled B&W to reduce costs even more, and the yard's naval architects have now adapted the basic design to produce products tanker and containership designs.

Another Danish yard to benefit from a special relationship with a shipowner is Lindovaerft, at Odense. In this instance, the relationship stems from the fact that the shipowner, A P Moller, is the yard's parent company. Orders from Moller account for a large proportion of the yard's currently healthy orderbook, which includes a pair of 15,000 m3 LPG tankers, and a series of 48,000 dwt products tankers.

Indeed, Lindovaerft is becoming something of a specialist in this kind of vessel, with two further examples on order for Torm D/S, and the delivery of two giant 97,570 dwt products tankers to A P Moller last year. In addition, a $52.6-million order for two 20,000-dwt products tankers has just been announced.

Due for delivery towards the end of 1986, the vessels have been ordered by the Danish Investment Fund, and will be bareboat chartered to A P Moller with an option to buy after the first five years.

Of the smaller Danish yards, the most successful has been the prolific coaster builder Nordsovaerft.

At the beginning of this year the yard had nine vessels on the orderbook, including a series of three multi-purpose dry cargo ships with container capacity for Elite Shipping. These vessels are due for delivery in the last quarter of 1984 and the early part of 1985 In general, Danish shipyards have managed to remain independent from state ownership, and relatively busy. They are helped considerably by the fact that Danish shipowners rarely place orders overseas, and indeed many of the yards are actually owned by shipping companies.

Finland A glance at the list of Finnish deliveries in recent years shows quite conclusively that the country's shipbuilding industry is very heavily dependent on orders from the USSR. It has been estimated that around 60 percent of Finnish shipbuilding activity since 1980 has been for the Soviet Union, and indeed of the 33 vessels of more than 2,000 dwt delivered by Finnish yards in 1983, only five were destined for non-Soviet ownership.

At the beginning of 1984, however, Finnish orderbooks were showing a decline, due almost entirely to the fact that the lion's share of the work resulting from the current Soviet five-year plan had already been exhausted.

Therefore, the recent announcement of 21 Soviet newbuildings for Finland, all of which are advance orders for the next five-year plan, has been enthusiastically welcomed by the four major Finnish shipbuilding groups, each of which will be getting a slice of this very lucrative pie.

The major beneficiary of this latest round of Soviet ordering is state-owned Valmet, with a 52 percent share, in financial terms, of the total order. It is to build a total of eight new vessels: three 400-berth accommodation vessels, worth $40 million each at its Turku yard, and an additional five arctic multi-purpose cargo ships, of the successful SA 15 design, at Helsinki.

Valued at some $52.6 million each, these ships will incorporate slight modifications. The changes are expected to affect the quarter ramp design, accommodation, and engine room layout.

These orders were announced about the same time as a $50 million contract with Swedish owner Birka Line for a 21,000 grt passenger vessel, representing a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Valmet.

Although state-owned, the yard is required to operate efficiently and does not benefit from government subsidies. At the beginning of 1984 the orderbook was at a particularly low ebb. As a result, the corporation merged its two Turku yards — Perno and Laivateollisus — with the loss of a number of jobs. Shortly thereafter, the firm decided to use its large building dock at Helsinki solely for conversion and repair work.

Valmet is Finland's largest ship repairer, with capacity for over ,400 ships per year. However, with the Birka Line order heralding the corporation's entry into the passenger vessel field, and the Soviets' timely boost, Valmet is now looking forward to a healthy future.

Numerically, the largest share of the Soviet order has gone to Rauma Repola, with nine vessels spread among its three yards. Five 5,000 dwt arctic product tankers will be built at Rauma, with two ocean-going tugs ordered from Uusikaupunki, and two hydrographic survey vessels from Savollina.

The new orders are particularly important to these latter two yards, which were rapidly running out of work.

Hollming, although smaller, is one of the country's major shipbuilders, and is now becoming something of a specialist in the design and construction of research vessels. It currently has four such craft on order from the USSR, two of which are its share of the latest orders. It is now looking to capitalize on its experience in building this type of ship, and has recently set up an ocean systems department for the development marketing of complex electronic systems.

Without doubt, the most successful of the Finnish shipbuilders is Wartsila, one of the few genuinely healthy shipbuilding concerns in the world today. Despite only receiving contracts for a pair of dredgers in the latest Soviet ordering spree, there remains a large amount of good quality tonnage on the books at both its Helsinki and its Perno yards.

The major element in Wartsila's success is its specialization in two specific vessel types—icebreakers and passenger ships—to the extent it is widely considered the world's leading builder of these craft. Last year it delivered 13 icebreakers.

Prominent on the current order book is P&O's Royal Princess, destined to become one of the most prestigious cruise ships afloat, and two "super ferries" building for Silja Line, and two smaller "yacht cruisers" for Norske Cruise A/S.

Wartsila sees a market for less conventional cruise ships in the future and already has well advanced designs for both a fourmasted "Windcruiser" and a 2,000- passenger SWATH ship.

Sweden Shipbuilding in Sweden continues to make headway, thanks in no small part to the government's apparent willingness to write off large amounts of capital, and to the slimming down operation which has been underway since nationalization in 1977.

Last year the country's only two surviving large ship builders, Kockums and Uddevallavarvet, both reduced their workforces by around 30 percent. Shipbuilding capacity in Sweden has been cut more than in any other European nation. The current workforce of 9,450 employed on newbuildings is about only 20 percent of the figure for the early 1970s.

In 1983 Swedish yards delivered 17 vessels, totalling 501, 156 dwt.

Of these, the two major yards accounted for 8 ships and 464,500 dwt, leaving the balance for the smaller operations.

Under the scheme instituted following the state take-over, Kockums was dedicated to building RO/ ROs and other medium-sized tonnage, although it is geared up for the construction of large ships.

The yard's 1983 deliveries were a series of three RO/ROs for the National Shipping Corporation of Saudi Arabia.

At the moment, the yard is approaching completion of the last of three RO/RO containerships for the Swedish partners in ACL.

It appeared, temporarily, Kockums would experience a gap between delivery of the last ACL vessel and the commencement of work on the two Carnival Cruise Lines ships which are due for delivery in 1986 and 1987. However, this time slot was neatly filled with the announcement, towards the end of 1983, that Swedish operator Wallenius lines had placed an order for two car carriers, with a 1985 completion date.

Uddevallavarvet's future orderj book appears thin. However, the last of three OBOs for Philippines Transmarine, together with a pair of products tankers for Anders and Wilh. Wilhelmsen and an ore/oil carrier for Ugland Management will ensure work until the latter half of next year. After that, activity will depend upon any success in obtaining new orders in the near future.

The real success story in Swedish shipbuilding is to be found at Gotaverken Arendal. Since facing a crisis with the collapse of the tanker market in the late 1970s, Gotaverken has devoted itself entirely to offshore building, and has established itself as Europe's leader in this field.

Since 1980, it has turned out 15 rigs from its single yard, in addition to four conversions and a module. The current orderbook features four supply vessels for Stena Offshore, and four diving support ships and a semi-submersible rig for Consafe.

At the other Swedish yards, the outlook is less encouraging. Only Falkenbergs Varvet has a vessel under construction, a small supply ship for Tunisia. Oresundvarvet has been closed down, and Oskarhamns resurrected under private ownership with a 50 percent reduction in workforce.

However, Cityvarvet, the repair and service group, reported a small profit in 1983.

The Cityvarvet organization has ten docking facilities able to take ships of up to 240,000 dwt. These are strategically located around the Swedish west, south and east coasts. An important part of the Cityvarvet resources is the worldwide ship service through its Ciserv-organization.

Norway The structure of Norwegian shipbuilding is very different from that of Sweden. While the Swedes have opted for a small number of large-capacity state-owned yards, each specializing in a particular vessel type, the Norwegians have completely avoided government intervention and central control.

As a result, the coastline of Norway is peppered with small shipyards.

Once again, the story of decline is revealed by cuts in the labor force. Before 1974 and 1983, the number of people employed in shipbuilding in Norwegian yards had declined from 15,082 to just 4,541.

The building of large ships in Norway is rare now. The biggest vessels delivered in 1983 were two 55,000 dwt chemical tankers, built at Horten for Th. Brovig and Toro Horten A/s, and a 38,400-dwt chemical tanker built by Aker for J O Odfell.

Most of the yards with capacity for large vessels have turned their attention elsewhere. Aker has gone over to offshore activity, while Haugesund Mek. Verksted and Bergens Mek. Verksted, which recently broke away from the Aker group, and Kristiansands Mek.

Verksted, are all concentrating on repair and offshore work.

Only Moss Rosenberg has vessels of significant size on its current order book—a 24,000 m3 LPG carrier for Helge R Myhre, and 13,200 dwt chemical tanker for A/ S Havtor Management. However, Moss, too, has joined the rapidly growing number of yards looking towards the offshore market for future employment.

As has been noted elsewhere, one of the keys to survival in today's shipbuilding market is the establishment of a reputation as a specialist and leader in the construction of a particular vessel type. This has been achieved by Ulstein Hatlo, with its highly popular UT 708 and UT 704 supply vessels. A number of these sophisticated craft have been delivered, and the yard is constantly working to improve and refine the design in order to offer prospective buyers a still more efficient and economic product.

The work which stems from the offshore industries is extremely varied, involving the construction and maintenance of rigs, accommodation platforms, modules, supply vessels, rescue crafts, buoys, pipelines, tankers etc. Nevertheless, it seems doubtful whether there will be enough to enable many of the small Norwegian yards, unaided by government subsidies, to hold great hopes for the future.

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 23,  Jul 15, 1984

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First published in 1881 Maritime Reporter is the world's largest audited circulation publication serving the global maritime industry.