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    Banger look at Taiwan


    In recent months, shipowners' thoughts have repeatedly revolved around the Red Sea. The Houthi militia has already attacked more than 60 ships there; last week, three sailors were killed for the first time in an attack on a container ship. A situation that is worrying the industry and having a major impact, as the Hamburg-based Association of German Shipowners (VDR) reports. Stability and security are essential in the long term, says President Gaby Bornheim, otherwise supplies by sea would be in danger.

    To ensure that this doesn't happen, it is important to “keep our own strong merchant fleet in the country,” says Managing Director Martin Kröger. With 1,800 container ships, Germany continues to be an international leader. But of course the crisis still has noticeable consequences. Many shipping companies are avoiding the Red Sea because of the attacks. The number of passages through the Suez Canal, the shortest sea connection between Asia and Europe, has fallen significantly. Because of the detour around the Cape of Good Hope, the ships now travel 6,000 kilometers longer. At least a million US dollars more were incurred per tour with a large container ship, says Kröger. This only covers the costs of fuel, plus operating and personnel costs. However, shipping companies can also charge higher prices due to higher freight rates, so the new routes will not have much impact on the industry, at least initially financially.

    The shipping association initially does not expect that the situation in the Red Sea will lead to higher prices for consumers. However, that could change if the attacks last longer, says Bornheim. The fact that shipping companies have invested their profits from recent years into expanding their shipping fleets is having a positive impact. The new freighters are now available during the crisis, so that major bottlenecks can be avoided.

    Around 2,000 Ukrainian and 3,000 Russian sailors work in the German merchant fleet

    In recent years, shipowners have repeatedly had to contend with conflicts on their sea routes. The situation in Ukraine is still affecting trade routes, and Russia's attack has turned the Black Sea into a crisis area. “There is now a corridor that can be used as a merchant ship, which goes through the territorial waters of the EU bordering states and then through the Bosphorus,” says Kröger, “but it is and remains a danger area that still causes us significant problems .” Not only in terms of trade, but also in terms of the crews of the ships. Around 2,000 Ukrainian and 3,000 Russian sailors work in the German merchant fleet. Many of them worry about being called up for military service.

    And looking towards Asia also triggers uneasy feelings among shipowners in view of a possible attack by China on Taiwan. Bornheim reports that they sought contact with the Taiwanese shipping administration. “They have clearly said they are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.” The tension is high, says Kröger. The association views the situation with great concern. “The Taiwan Strait is the world's most important waterway when it comes to container transport”. According to the shipping association, around 90 percent of the transport that goes from Asia to Europe is carried out across the strait. “It is of course essential that this waterway is kept safe,” says Kröger. Since China is the largest producer of merchant ships, the industry would face completely different problems if the conflict escalated.

    Due to the tense political situation in some sea areas, many freighters sail there, sometimes with armed forces. According to the president of the shipping association Bornheim, the 259 ships that fly under the German flag are at a disadvantage. The bureaucracy in this country is to blame, as it makes it impossible to act quickly and makes it difficult for shipping companies to bring security personnel on board. While other countries issue permits for specially protected trips within a day, in Germany it takes “almost six weeks’ lead time.”

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