Almost a year after the start of the Russian war of aggression, 62 international seagoing vessels are still stuck in Ukraine, according to the German Shipowners' Association (VDR). Among them is a German ship, said VDR President Gaby Bornheim on Wednesday in Hamburg. A total of 364 seafarers were affected. "We are very concerned for the seafarers who, even after a year of war in Ukraine, are still unable to return home."
Bornheim appealed to everyone involved to allow the seafarers to return to their home countries. Russian troops attacked Ukraine on February 24, 2022 and have been at war with the country ever since.
"We absolutely condemn the Russian attack on the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and (...) support the sanctions of the federal government, the EU, the United States, the United Nations," emphasized Bornheim. The war in Ukraine also had an impact on life on board German seagoing vessels. There are still around 3,000 Russians and 2,000 Ukrainians there. The teams stuck together surprisingly well, but it was also difficult.
Significant changes in the flow of goods and traffic
Hardly anyone can imagine what it means when, for example, a Russian chief engineer has to sadly tell his second engineer from the Ukraine that his daughter has died in a bomb attack, said Bornheim. "These are actually situations that take place on board." Some shipping companies have therefore already started to separate Russians and Ukrainians on board.
The war in Ukraine has also led to significant changes in the flow of goods and traffic, said VDR Managing Director Martin Kröger. For example, 40 percent of the world merchant fleet now transports energy in liquid or gas form - and the trend is rising. "Of course, shipping is concerned about the next trouble spots in the world," said Kröger. In particular, the Chinese-Taiwanese conflict plays a major role. The Strait of Taiwan is one of the most important routes in the world, especially for container shipping.
With 1,839 ships with more than 100 gross register tons, the German merchant fleet is in seventh place worldwide and first in the container sector, said Kröger. "We have counted the largest container ship fleet in the world under German management, based on ships." Their share of the world market is 10.7 percent. About half of the German merchant fleet with its almost 300 shipping companies sails under the German, Portuguese, Cypriot or Maltese flag, the other half under the flag of Liberia or Antigua and Barbuda.
Six percent women on board
The number of employees in Germany subject to social security contributions on board the merchant fleet rose by around 200 to almost 7,100 compared to the previous year. Most of them work as captains or officers, said Kröger. The recent boom in shipping has had a positive impact. The proportion of women on board is six percent, worldwide it is only two percent. The seafarers employed in Germany make up only a fraction of the total crew of the ships.
Nevertheless, the VDR is concerned about the recruitment of young people. "We have a great need for young professionals and in the competition for (...) young talent we are of course not alone," said Bornheim. With 377 job starters last year, shipping is still ten percent below the pre-corona value of 2019. "Something has to happen." The VDR has therefore declared 2023 to be the year of training. Bornheim emphasized: "We want young people to see how important this area of shipping is, how interesting it is." After all, there are enormous career opportunities at sea, but also afterwards on land.