A Primer on German Shipyards

Posted on MARHST-L in June 2000, the following by Maxwell Mulholland (BlauerMax@AOL.COM) appears here by permission.

The following is a *SHORT* historical primer on Germany's leading shipyards of the 20th century. The mergers and acquisitions craze in this industry has been especially fierce in Germany over the last 100 years. These yards have been bought, sold, and traded several times...it is almost as if they were Pokemon cards. The course of a company's history can take numerous twists and turns -- and is not always easy to follow -- so please be patient when trying to understand the development of these shipyards.


Shipyard "F. Schichau GmbH" originally founded 1837 in Elbing as heavy equipment and locomotive manufacturer. Large shipyard in Danzig built 1890, additional shipyard built in Koenigsberg. Firm abandoned its facilities after WW2 (shipyards taken over by Polish and Soviet governments in 1945). Moved to Bremerhaven to restart business. Company merged with the Unterweserwerft yard in 1972 to become "SUAG" ("Schichau-Unterweserwerft AG"). SUAG merged with Seebeckwerft in 1988 to become "SWW" ("Schichau Seebeck Werft"). Acquired by Bremer Vulkan Verbund AG (in 1988?). SWW separated from Vulkan in 1996 to become "SSW Faehr- und Spezialschiffbau GmbH". Company now bankrupt (?).


Shipyard founded 1891 as "Neptun Schiffswerft und Maschinenfabrik AG" in Rostock. Taken over by East German government as a state-owned enterprise (VEB) after 1949. "Neptun Industrie" absorbed in 1993 by Bremer Vulkan Verbund AG. Neptun separated from Vulkan in 1996.


Shipyard originally founded in Bremen in 1843. Officially named "AG-Weser" in 1872. Merged with 8 other shipyards 1926 into consolidated firm named "DESCHIMAG" ("Deutsche Schiff- und Maschinenbau Aktiengesellschaft"). Refounded in Bremen in 1949, to include ownership of Seebeckwerft in Bremerhaven. Company declared bankrupcy in 1984 -- Seebeckwerft was spun off and AG-Weser operations were shut down.


Shipyard founded 1918-1920 in Hamburg by consortium of HAPAG, AEG, and Gutehoffnungshuette. Merged with the Kiel and Hamburg operations of Howaldtswerke in 1968 to form "Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft AG" ("HDW").


Shipyard founded in Kiel 1925 when the former government-owned Reichswerft (former Kaiserliche Werft) was privatized. Merged with Howaldtswerke (Kiel) in 1937, joint firm then sold to the Kriegsmarine in 1939. Separated from Howaldtswerke in 1943 to become "Kriegsmarinewerft". After WW2 shipyard facilities again became part of Howaldtswerke.


Shipyard originally founded 1851 in Stettin. Renamed "Stettiner Maschinenbau AG Vulcan" in 1857. Additional shipyards built in Hamburg (1907-1909) and Bremen. Went bankrupt in 1928. Hamburg facilities sold in 1930. Refounded as "Stettiner Vulcan AG" (AKA "Stettiner Oder-werke"). Shipyard taken over by Polish government after 1945.


Parent company (Schweffel & Howaldt) originally founded 1838 in Kiel as machinery works and iron foundry. Company HQ moved to Hamburg after Kiel shipbuilding facilities were sold to Kriegsmarine in 1939. Firm's ownership of shipyard reestablished in 1943. After WW2 the company acquired the Germania shipyard and the Kriegsmarinewerft (both in Kiel). Merged with its Hamburg cousin and Deutsche Werft in 1968 to form "Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft AG" ("HDW").


Shipyard founded 1909 as Hamburg operations of Stettiner AG Vulcan. Acquired in 1930 (along with shipyard Janssen & Schilinski) by Howaldtswerke (Kiel) and named "Howaldtswerke Hamburg AG". Merged with Howaldtswerke (Kiel) and Deutsche Werft in 1968 to make "Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft AG" ("HDW"). Hamburg shipbuilding operations sold to Blohm & Voss in 1986.


Shipyard originally founded in 1805 in Vegesack (Bremen). Incorporated as "Bremer Vulkan AG" in 1893. 1919-1923 increasingly dominated by Thyssen conglomerate. Company allowed to resume shipbuilding in 1949. In 1972 Bremer Vulkan became part of Thyssen-Bornemisza-Group NV. Merged with Lloyd-Werft in 1984. Company acquired former East German companies MTW-Schiffswerft (Wismar) and Dieselmotorenwerk (Stralsund) in 1992. Firm renamed "Bremer Vulkan Verbund AG". Acquired former East German shipyards Neptun Werft (Rostock) and Volkswerft (Stralsund) in 1993. All shipbuilding operations spun off as "Vulkan Schiffbau Verbund AG" in 1994. Company declared bankruptcy in 1996. Shipyard in Vegesack ceased activities 1997.


Shipyard founded 1872 in Kiel as "Norddeutsche Schiffbau AG". Acquired in 1883 by Krupp and renamed "Friedrich Krupp Germania-Werft AG". Merged into Howaldtswerke after WW2.


"Schiffswerft und Maschinenfabrik Blohm & Voss" founded 1877 in Hamburg. Firm regained permission to build ships in 1954. Company reorganized as "Blohm & Voss AG" in 1955. Acquired shipyards Schliecker and HC Stuelcken in 1966. Acquired Hamburg shipbuilding operations of HDW in 1986. Today B&V is a division of Thyssen-Werften (along with Thyssen Nordseewerke GmbH in Emden), which is owned by Thyssen Industrie AG.

The stunning demise of Bremer Vulkan Verbund AG, the largest shipyard employer in Germany with over 22,000 workers on the rolls at the time of its collapse in 1996, was a traumatic event. The refusal of creditors and the government to bail out the firm caused mass demonstrations and violent protests. The glorious life and sordid death of this famous company are detailed in two recent books:
Helmut Behling, "Bremer Vulkan: Ende einer Aera" ("Bremer Vulkan: End of an Era", Hauschild Verlag, 1997).
Wolfgang Kiesel, "Der Bremer Vulkan: Aufstieg und Fall" ("Bremer Vulkan: Rise and Fall", Schoenholz, 1997).

Last Updated: 16 October, 2000.

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