EU Shipbuilding Sector




The shipbuilding industry deals with the production of larger (mainly seagoing) vessels intended for the merchant fleet (cargo or passenger transport), the off-shore energy industry or military purposes. It also includes products and services supplied for the building, conversion, and maintenance of these ships. The European Commission promotes the industry’s development and addresses competitiveness issues it faces.

Importance of the Shipbuilding Sector

The European shipbuilding industry is a dynamic and competitive sector. It is important from both an economic and social perspective. It is also linked to other sectors including transport, security, energy, research, and the environment.

  • There are about 150 large shipyards in Europe. Around 40 of them are active in the global market for large seagoing commercial vessels;
  • Some 120,000 people are employed by shipyards (civil and naval, new building, and repair yards) in the EU;
  • With a market share of around 6% in terms of tonnage and 35% for marine equipment, Europe is a major player in the global shipbuilding industry (total turnover of EUR 60 billion in 2012);

Shipbuilding is an important and strategic industry in a number of EU countries. Shipyards contribute significantly to regional industrial infrastructure and national security interests (military shipbuilding).

The European shipbuilding industry is the global leader in the construction of complex vessels, such as cruise ships, ferries, mega-yachts, and dredgers. It also has a strong position in the building of submarines and other naval vessels.

The European marine equipment industry is a world leader for a wide range of products ranging from propulsion systems, large diesel engines, environmental, and safety systems, to cargo handling and electronics.

Challenges faced by the Shipbuilding Industry

The sector faces fierce international competition from countries like China and South Korea. The industry has also suffered from the absence of effective global trade rules and state supported over investment. This is because shipyards offer a wide range of technologies, employ a significant number of workers, and generate foreign currency income, due to the fact the global shipbuilding market is dollar-based.

What the Commission is doing

The Commission is addressing issues affecting the shipbuilding industry through a variety of policy measures, in particular LeaderSHIP 2015 and LeaderSHIP 2020 (1 MB).

The shipbuilding industry impacts upon various other policy areas, in particular research and innovation, intellectual property, maritime clusters, safety, and the environment. The Commission also takes further policy action in these areas, including conducting studies on key issues.