HDW: A long tradition in Innovation

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A ferry leaves Kiel bound for ports to the north. Kiel is also a major ferry terminal for ports in Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

HDW in Kiel, Germany, stands today for the world's most modern non-nuclear submarines. The company is known all over the world - but that was not always so. On 1st October 1838 - at a time when Kiel still belonged to Denmark - the "Weekly Gazette in Support of the Poor in Kiel" reported that Johann Schweffel and August Ferdinand Howaldt" joined forces on the first of this month under the name of Schweffel & Howaldt in a company combining the mechanical engineering plant located on Rosenwiese (literally: "the rose meadow") with an iron foundry".

The company was not initially set up as a shipyard. In those days it was steam engines, steam boilers, agricultural machinery, ovens and cooking utensils that left the premises.

And the first step on the road to shipbuilding was mainly the result of chance. Schweffel & Howaldt were asked to build the first submarine, "Brandtaucher", for the small Schleswig-Holstein Flottilla in German-Danish war between 1848 and 1851, because the Danish fleet blockaded Kiel harbour. By the way: "Brandtaucher" was the first "modern" submarine in the world based on design principles which are valid still today.

Real shipbuilding under the name of Howaldt began in 1865 with a little steamer named "Vorwärts" ("Forwards"). At the time, it was a typical name for a small ship; today it sounds more like a symbolic prediction of the shipyard's future. By the turn of the century, Howaldtswerke was already one of the more important shipyards in Germany. By then, the yard had built some 390 steamers of all kinds. A wide range of civilian and a fewer number of naval ships left the docks in Dietrichsdorf. World War I was followed by a period of crisis culminating in near-bankruptcy in 1926 with subsequent rescue. Then the yard expanded to Hamburg, incorporating an existing shipyard from 1930 as a new, partly independent branch of the company (which lasted until 1985), until the yard was temporarily taken over by the wartime German Navy in 1937.

After 1945, Howaldt was the only major shipyard in Kiel that managed to escape being totally dismantled. The yard was extended to Gaarden, now the only site, and profited from the "economic miracle" that took place in post-war West Germany. The company name was changed in 1968 after the merger of Howaldtswerke AG in Kiel and Howaldtswerke Hamburg AG with the Hamburg-based Deutsche Werft GmbH. At the peak of its development, the shipyard employed some 24,000 people in Kiel and Hamburg. But heavy government subsidisation of the shipbuilding industry in the Far East led to dumping prices with a severely adverse effect on shipbuilding in Europe, and the Howaldt Group was no better protected from the crisis than other yards. In the end, HDW concentrated its forces at the present site in Kiel-Gaarden and in 1990, rationalised and improved efficiency to make the yard one of the most modern in Europe. In the mid-1990s, the changeover to mainly computer-controlled production methods caused quite a sensation. Then at the end of the millennium, purchase of the Swedish shipyard company Kockums paved the way to Europe, leading in 2002, with the acquisition of Hellenic Shipyards in Greece to an international shipyard group. In 2005 the HDW-Group merged with the ThyssenKrupp shipyards and formed a new powerful shipyards group under the name "ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems AG".

The history of a shipyard is always a history of the ships it has built. In the case of Howaldt, a large fleet has developed over the course of more than 160 years of history. All kinds of ships - and many of them pioneers in their own fields. For example the polar research vessel "Gauss" (1901), which collected so much new research material from Arctic waters during a three-year voyage under the Imperial German Navy that scientists took more than ten years to evaluate the data. The age of diesel engines began as early as 1911 at the Howaldt yard, with the launching of "Monte Penedo", the world's second ship with an internal combustion engine. The Transatlantic liner "Imperator" built in Hamburg (1913) was met with stares of amazement from contemporaries, as was the world's first supertanker "Jupiter" (1914). For the Russian Imperial Navy the ship "Okean" was built, a genuinely unique vessel with 17 boilers! The Tsar's Navy wanted the ship to train its young engineers. In 1936, Howaldt built the first floating aircraft carrier for Lufthansa's Transatlantic airmail traffic, the catapult ship "Ostmark".

Recovery of Howaldtswerke after World War II began with tankers, mother ships for whalers and fish-factory ships. In 1953, new sights were set by the 46,000 tdw tanker "Tina Onassis" for the shipping magnate Aristoteles Onassis, who also had the Canadian corvette "Stormond" converted to the luxury yacht "Christina" at the Howaldt shipyard in Kiel. In 1968, one of the few civilian nuclear-powered ships in the world, the nuclear-powered cargo vessel "Otto Hahn" was built in Kiel. The polar research vessel "Polarstern", built in 1982, became one of the most successful research vessels of all time. In the field of containership shipbuilding, HDW set standards for the world to meet. The yard played a leading role in developing the "ship of the future" concept, now used all over the world. Another innovative idea was that of open-top container ships. "Norasia Fribourg" in 1993 was the first in a line of open-top container ships, including the largest cold-storage container ships in the world, built on the same principle, the "Dole Colombia" and "Dole Chile", nominated Ship of the Year in 1999. More recently, in 2002 the shipping owners and captains of six fast ferries delivered to the Greek "Superfast" line were loud in their praise of these ships for their speed, comfort and seaworthiness.

HDW has also set milestones in submarine building. The story starts with Wilhelm Bauer's "Brandtaucher". It was one chapter of history, just like a test submarine in 1897 with the Yard Number 333. The submarine salvage ship "Vulkan" delivered to the Imperial German Navy in 1908 by Howaldtswerke represented advanced technology at that time, intended to support the newly emerging German submarine fleet. A number of ships were designed along the same lines. In 1944, Howaldt built the first prototypes of the "Seehund" type mini-submarines.

HDW's ascent to top of the class in conventional submarine building began with the construction of the submarine fleet for the German Navy starting in 1960. Today the yard is the world leader in the construction of non-nuclear submarines. The Class 209 submarine at 63 units is the most frequently 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 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. Under the motto "faster, quieter, deeper" HDW submarines are serving in 16 navies around the world.

The construction of naval surface ships also has a long tradition at the HDW shipyard. For over 100 years Howaldtswerke and HDW have been building a wide variety of surface ships for the German and friendly foreign navies, from cruisers to modern frigates. A special highlight has now been presented by the HDW subsidiary company Kockums in Sweden. The shipyard in Karlskrona is building the world's first "Stealth" corvettes - virtually undetectable by the electronic eyes and ears of the adversary.

HDW is backed up by over 160 years of shipbuilding history. A long tradition. But no cause to sit back and relax. The yard's tradition is forward-looking: Within the strong framework of the TKMS group, it builds ocean-going vessels - both merchant and naval vessels. Brand new ships, strong ships, reliable ships. Always abreast of time and often ahead of it.