“Global Dream” turns into a nightmare for a German port city

The unfinished ‘Global Dream’ rests quietly on a dock as the Covid-19 pandemic has made cruising a nightmare for the Wismar shipyard along Germany’s windswept Baltic coast.

Destined to become one of the largest ocean liners in the world, the ‘Global Dream’ will have the chance to set sail after Asian shipyard MV Werften filed for bankruptcy last month.

If no buyers step in, thousands of shipyard jobs are at risk and the local economy could be hit hard.

“We are the classic victims of the coronavirus,” said Carsten Haake, CEO of MV Werften.

The declaration of bankruptcy meant the cessation of construction work on the ship, which would have become one of the first ships capable of accommodating up to 10,000 passengers and crew.

The fate of the MV Werften was decided thousands of miles from Asia, at the offices of Genting HK, owner of the shipyard and operator of Dream Cruises.

Specializing in tourism and casinos, the company went bankrupt due to travel disruption caused by the pandemic and the decision of its Malaysian parent company, Genting, to abandon it.

Without sufficient financial guarantees, the German state, which had agreed to support the shipyard, withdrew.

Since then, the 342-meter-long cruise ship, slightly taller than the Eiffel Tower and adorned with a freakish cartoon mural of astronauts and mermaids, has been waiting for a saviour.

The project, with an estimated cost of 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion), is “75% complete”, according to the shipyard’s management. But it takes 600 million euros to move forward.

As the ship waits, uncertainty grips the 2,000 employees at the MV Werften docks in Stralsund, Rostock and Wismar, just across the coast from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in what was once Germany from ballast.

Countdown

Christoph Morgen has been appointed legal administrator of the company with a single objective: “to find a buyer for the Global Dream”.

The ship was designed when the cruise industry was booming, but demand for vacations at sea has been affected by the pandemic.

Even though “some investors have shown interest,” Morgen said, getting a good deal on such a giant ship is tough, especially while the coronavirus is still around.

The administrators are on track for March 1, their deadline to find a viable solution.

The situation is also being closely watched by local government figures for whom the collapse was a “shock, as it was for the whole city”, the social-democratic mayor of Wismar, Thomas Beyer, told AFP.

“Many families depend on the establishment, generations have worked there,” he added.

The shipyards are intimately linked to the history of the city. Built after the Second World War, they were first used for a service Soviet ships, before being enlarged in the 1950s.

industry led to massive layoffs “>The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of East German industry led to massive layoffs.

Privatized in the 1990s, the shipyards have since had a series of German and foreign owners, but have survived the economic vagaries so far.

Wismar is no more

In the central square of Wismar, surrounded by the colorful buildings typical of Hanseatic cities, Heike Reimann, 67, worries about the impact the disappearance of the flagship industry could have on the city.

“Wismar, without its shipyard, is not Wismar,” said Reimann, whose husband, Siegfried, worked on the docks for 10 years.

If no buyer comes forward, the sites will have to be converted into hydrogen or offshore wind production sites, symbols of the country’s energy transition, said administrator Morgen.

The idea appeals to some residents.

“Is it really a good idea to keep building big ships with global warming? said Christian Buenge, 63.

But the switch to green power would spell disaster for local workers, the unions said.

“For a different project, different employees with different skills will be needed,” said Henning Groskreutz of the IG Metall union.

The mayor’s office is equally cold to the idea.

“We have to keep our maritime industries, it’s part of who we are,” Mayor Beyer said.

Source Credit: TheGuardian

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