Maritime by Holland : A proud seafaring nation

The Netherlands is a proud seafaring nation, with a self-created maritime manufacturing industry. The ships we design and build in the Netherlands are the calling cards for our sector, reaching ports around the world or performing heavy work offshore. Our ships fly the Dutch tricolour with pride, or are operated by shipping lines where this flag hangs on their wall.


As a maritime trading country, we have access to a fantastic logistical chain, with the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam as leading international icons. Our maritime infrastructure  engineers are also known around the globe. They recently played a leading role in building the second Suez Canal, for instance. However, our sector covers a far wider spectrum of companies. Consider for example our offshore, shipbuilding, shipping, inland shipping, mega-yacht building and fisheries. With some 12,000 companies, they offer employment to 265,000 people, and the sector achieves an added value of almost 24 billion euros.

“As a maritime nation, we have a high-quality navy to protect our trading and national interests. This has allowed a unique ecosystem to evolve over the years, in which the navy, knowledge institutions and industry work closely together to develop and build ships. The Royal Dutch Navy acts as ‘launching customer’ for these innovative ship types and systems. Through this interchange of operational maritime experience and high-technology shipbuilding, the Netherlands always has access to the most modern vessels, at an attractive price. These ship types are also desired for export or transfer, as modernised second-hand vessels. So there is a mutual benefit for the navy and the business sector.”

The text above comes from a study we recently presented to the Dutch Minister of Defence. It serves as a guideline for the new Dutch government which is currently under formation. For us it’s not just about building the navy ships. Innovation in naval construction is a significant driver for acquiring knowledge within the entire maritime sector. So we strive to keep this ecosystem in place. And that helps us to be effective in other projects. For example our experiences with hybrid power for navy vessels offer a solution for the challenges we face when it comes to making our ocean-going and inland shipping fleets even more sustainable.

The knowledge acquired over the entire spectrum in naval shipbuilding also applies across the full range of the maritime sector through knowledge institutions like, TNO and the Delft University of Technology. The ecosystem we have created around our naval shipbuilding has thus become the touchstone for the Dutch maritime industry. In this way not only does our navy protect our trading interests, but it also drives innovation within our entire sector. A sector which is vibrant, high-tech and hands-on, and ready to develop the next generation of cutting edge naval ships.

Wim van Sluis
Chairman Nederland Maritiem Land (Maritime by Holland)

Maritime by Holland : All hands on deck

NML-005-LogoLooking back I have to conclude that it has been a turbulent year for the Dutch maritime industry. We’ve had both ups and tremendous downs. Early December I had the honour to receive the first copy of the Maritime Monitor 2016 from our coordinating maritime Minister, Melanie Schultz van Haegen. This annual report is always a hot topic in the industry because it provides insight into key figures of the previous year which in this case was 2015.


At first sight the outcome of the study seemed comforting; an increase of 3.9 % added value. A number that doesn’t say anything about profitability. The industry employment rate shows a rather less positive figure. With only a slight decline of 0.5%, it still is a negative trend. Something we had not seen for a while. For years the industry showed steady growth in employment, added value and export.

Apart from the shipping industry, the maritime industry mostly managed to navigate unscathed through the crisis up to 2015. In contrast to the general tendency of the struggling Dutch economy. Right from the start of the crisis in 2008, the shipping industry was hit hard. Freight rates dropped due to overcapacity and slacking world trade. Eight years later there are still no signs of recovery.

Low oil prices have a negative effect on the shipbuilding industry and cause turmoil in the offshore oil and gas industry. Reality is that the tables have turned. For the first time in years the national economy outperforms the maritime industry. The industry finds itself in rough weather and unfortunately makes the news regularly in a disturbing manner. Stories covering lay-offs and bankruptcies are all over the news. The Maritime Monitor used to be a reliable thermometer for the industry’s state of being. At the moment we are almost at the end of 2016. And it is safe to say reality finally caught up and the industry is in a bad spot.

The Dutch maritime industry is famous for its ‘hands-on’ approach, our entrepreneurial spirit and self-sufficiency. That being said, it will not surprise you that our companies are occupied and committed to identify opportunities to find fair winds and following seas. Mind you, there are many opportunities. Think of offshore wind, tidal energy, sea farming, life cycle support in the superyacht industry and cruise shipping. 2017 will be an important year in the Netherlands because we’ll have to elect a new national government. The biggest opportunity will perhaps arise by having a new government with a strong focus on the maritime industry. Either way, if we want to turn the downfall around it’s ‘all hands on deck’!

Wim van Sluis
Chairman, Nederland Maritiem Land (Maritime by Holland)