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THE REVIVED SHIPYARD IN KOMÁRNO CONNECTS TO A LONG AND RICH HISTORY OF SHIPBUILDING

Sailing back to the sea

SLOVAK Lodenice Komárno Bratislava (SLKB) shipyard ceremonially christened two sea-going cargo vessels of the type NL Ryn on May 15. Named Rodau and Mühlenau, the ships were ordered by the German firm Reederei Erwin Strahlmann and are part of a larger contract for eight vessels totalling Sk1.5 billion (€37.3 million).
"The contract is the result of good cooperation and customer satisfaction with the high quality and utilitarian value of the first three ships delivered in 2003," said Christopher van der Stelt, the director general of the shipyard.


THE TWO newly produced cargo vessels will soon leave the Komárno shipyard for the sea.
photo: Miroslav Karpaty

SLOVAK Lodenice Komárno Bratislava (SLKB) shipyard ceremonially christened two sea-going cargo vessels of the type NL Ryn on May 15. Named Rodau and Mühlenau, the ships were ordered by the German firm Reederei Erwin Strahlmann and are part of a larger contract for eight vessels totalling Sk1.5 billion (€37.3 million).

"The contract is the result of good cooperation and customer satisfaction with the high quality and utilitarian value of the first three ships delivered in 2003," said Christopher van der Stelt, the director general of the shipyard.

The two new sea-going vessels made in Komárno will join the previous three, enlarging the German shipping fleet to 53 ships altogether. Based on multiple contracts, the shipyard will supply Strahlmann with 12 more ships by 2006. In the end, more than one fourth of the cargo vessels riding the seas under the German firm's flag will be from the Komárno shipyard.

"I am satisfied; otherwise, I wouldn't have ordered so many vessels," Erwin Strahlmann told The Slovak Spectator on the day of the ships' christening. "At the moment this is the best quality vessel [of this type] you can get for such a price on the European market."

Nine vessels at the shipyard under various stages of construction signal that interest among clients has dramatically increased since the company revived operations in 2001. Before, it faced a deep financial crisis.

"Over the last year we have seen excellent results. We have pointed our firm in the right direction and assured its future, which is a great joy for the employees as well as the management," van der Stelt said.


photo: Miroslav Karpaty

The shipyard, which currently employs 950 workers, has produced nine cargo sea-vessels since 2001. The newly reformed company taps into the rich history of shipbuilding in Komárno, which started in 1898.

Offering direct access to ports on the Black and the North Seas through the Danube River, the shipyard has produced over 1,900 vessels of various types in its history, including passenger and dredging ships, as well military craft.

Initially a small repair-shipyard, the company grew along with the rise in trade at the turn of the 20th century. During the period of Austro-Hungarian monarchy, various types of paddle-wheel-driven tugboats, motor cargo ships, and barges were produced for domestic shipping companies and for companies in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Turkey, England, and China.

A significant phase in the company's development began after the second world war, when new production capacities brought modern technology that enabled the mass production of ships. During the Cold War, the vessels were delivered to eastern Europe, mainly to Russian shipping companies. Around 580 ships - mostly tugboats, passenger cruisers, bucket dredgers, and different types of cargo vessels for river and river-sea operations - had been produced for this market by the end of the 1980s.

The end of communism in 1989 opened up access to the European markets to the west, which enabled the production of sea-going cargo ships and river-sea ships to reach the current level of 5,000 deadweight tonnage. The main customers became German, Dutch, and Russian shipping companies, who have taken over 95 vessels of different types.


THE SHIPYARD's history dates back to the 19th century.
photo: Courtesy of SLKB

Today, the SLKB is a joint-stock company with foreign capital and the only producer of newbuilding in Slovakia. It specialises in building river- and sea-going cargo vessels of up to 8,000 tonnes that are delivered to western European markets.

In the near future, the company plans to expand its production portfolio to include tankers and other specialised ships. One of them, for example, will be developed in cooperation with Erwin Strahlmann.

"When we fulfil the contract, our cooperation with the shipyard does not end. Together we will work to develop a sea-going cargo vessel of the Eider type," Strahlmann told the Hospo-dárske noviny daily.

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