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New Assonave chair calls for stronger European industrial policy

Claudio Graziano's 'formidable authoritativeness and strategic ability' seen as key to urging European action on shipbuilding competitiveness
Newly elected Assonave Chairman Claudio Graziano urged new industrial policy to strengthen the Italy's and Europe's global shipbuilding competitiveness.

Gen. Graziano, who also chairs Fincantieri, was newly elected to lead Assonave, the Italian shipbuildng industry's trade association, for a term stretching to 2025.

Outgoing Chairman Vincenzo Petrone

At Assonave’s annual members' meeting in Rome, outgoing chairman and former Fincantieri Chairman Vincenzo Petrone said he was leaving an association in good health that had managed to achieve many of its goals.

'However, it has not yet achieved a crucial goal for ensuring the prosperity of our sector in the years to come, namely the creation of a market free from anti-competitive practices. So far — and the European shipbuilding sector is partly to blame for this — the European Commission has lacked the political will to take on the necessary risks to solve our sector’s key problem,' Petrone said.

He went on to express his confidence that Graziano's 'formidable authoritativeness and strategic ability ... will be a key ingredient to facilitate the opening of a round table with the European Commission that can find a workable solution to advantage our sector, whose DNA has all the necessary assets to excel in the years to come once this problem has been solved.'

Graziano is a general with a long military career who previously chaired the European Union's Military Committee.

Pandemic challenges, Russia's war, inflation

The Assonave meeting confirmed that, despite global market growth driven by the exponential increase in orders for container ships and gas tankers, the European shipbuilding sector continues to experience difficulties.

These are related to the pandemic's impact on the cruise sector, whose ships account for over 80% of the value of the European orders portfolio. Russia's war in Ukraine has also caused difficulties in the procurement of iron and ferro-alloys, a spike in energy and natural gas prices and an increase in transport costs.

Nevertheless, the Italian shipbuilding sector has managed to keep order cancellations to a minimum and, in fact, recently won a new order from Four Seasons Yachts.

Military sector growth

The military sector is experiencing significant growth in light of security needs, and this will help facilitate the long-term development of the industry. The outlook for the global merchant ship market also appears promising, and the cruise sector is expected to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels in 2023.

Decarbonization will require massive fleet replacement

Additionally, in order to achieve the emission targets set by the International Maritime Organization and the European Commission for 2050, it will be necessary to almost entirely replace the global fleet, whose estimated value at current costs may exceed US$3 trillion.

In this context, Assonave continues to carry out its mission to maximize the competitiveness of the shipbuilding sector and related industries, contributing initiatives to Italy's National Recovery and Resilience Plan that can stimulate demand in the short term. These initiatives include the ‘green ships’ decree, the development of environmentally friendly maritime propulsion systems, alternative fuels or hybrid propulsion systems, green and digital maritime infrastructure, and cold ironing in ports.

Grants for Zero-Emission Waterborne Transport

The first round of calls for the Co-Programmed Partnership on Zero-Emission Waterborne Transport, the first and only European sectorial initiative dedicated to shipbuilding, has allowed Assonave members access to grants amounting to about €5m.

Shipbuilding's strategic importance

Additionally, Assonave has contributed to the European Commission’s acknowledgment of the strategic importance of the shipbuilding sector, as now clearly evidenced in various documents of the European Commission and Parliament.

Assonave said this acknowledgment is 'vital for creating initiatives aimed at protecting the European shipbuilding industry, starting with the creation of a legal instrument — a pressing need for several decades now — that can protect the Italian system from structural anti-competitive practices in East Asia.'