“Faster … Quieter … Deeper”


Following World War ii, the port of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, was developed into the world’s largest seaport. Presently much of this port’s business comes from Germany. It is Germany’s main oil terminal. But things are about to change.

A year ago Germany announced that it would further develop one of its own ports by extending the facilities to handle deep-water container shipping in Wilhelmshaven, the eastern twin to Bremerhaven. These two great North Sea ports are the principal northern cold-water gateways to sea trade heading in and out of Germany. In a move that will counter Dutch dominance of North Sea shipping, Germany plans to open the new $755 million facilities at Wilhelmshaven by 2009.

This development comes hard on the heels of the opening of Europe’s now biggest and most modern harbor at the mouth of the Elbe River in the northern German city of Hamburg. This new Alternwerder Terminal features the very latest in harbor technology. Further development currently underway will permit the harbor to increase its present ability to dock two of the largest container ships simultaneously to double that capacity, allowing for the simultaneous docking of four such vessels.

Coincident with this development is Germany’s move into warm water European shipping via their purchase of Greece’s largest naval shipyards. A year ago, Greek Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said, “Here in Greece, a nautical repair, construction and technological base will be built that will affect the entire eastern Mediterranean and Eurasia regions and will contribute to the dynamic promotion of European industry in this new era” (Middle East Newsline, June 23, 2002; emphasis ours throughout).

Two years prior to the takeover of this state-owned Hellenic Shipyard by the German corporate consortium of hdw and Ferrostaal, the purchase by hdw of Sweden’s main shipyard company, Kockums, has paved the way for Germany to expand its shipyards out of its home territory.

Through a network of cooperative efforts with most important European shipbuilders, German interests now control a vast international shipyard group.

It is particularly interesting to note, having in mind the devastation wrought by German U-boats during World War ii on Allied naval and merchant vessels, the following claim made by hdw, made on their own corporate website: “Today the yard is the world leader in the construction of non-nuclear submarines. The Class 209 submarine at 61 units is the most-often-built diesel-electric submarine since World War ii. Special merit is due to the class 212A and 214 submarines, equipped with an air-independent propulsion system on the basis of hydrogen and fuel cells, which allow the boat to cruise submerged for weeks. HDW is the only company in the world currently able to offer a fuel cell propulsion system for series production. … The shipyard in Karlskrona is building the world’s first ‘Stealth’ corvettes—virtually undetectable by the electronic eyes and ears of the adversary” (www.hdw.de).

Hdw’s corporate website speaks of the consortium’s development of “the newly emerging German submarine fleet” in the early 21st century.

Following Germany’s defeat in World War ii, the hdw parent corporation operated the only major shipyard (in Kiel Bay, Nazi Germany’s shipbuilding mecca) to escape total dismantling at the direction of the Allies. It is most interesting to see the same company involved today in aggressively building both merchant and military vessels for Germany’s expansion of its empire under the aegis of the European Union. Hdw’s motto for their expanding submarine division, “faster, quieter, deeper,” could just as well apply to the rapid development of German war technology, which remains largely undetected and unreported by the world’s press and media.