At a glance

The German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) is a leading professional association within the German business community. It was founded in 1907 by the regional shipowners’ associations in order to enable them to have common and uniform representation of their interests. Today, the VDR represents the German maritime shipping segment not only in Berlin and Bonn, but also in Brussels, London, Geneva and at global level. With its over 150 member companies from different shipping sectors, the association represents the German shipping industry, which currently boasts the world’s fifth-largest merchant fleet. As an employers’ association, it conducts collective bargaining and social partner negotiations.

The Burchardhof in Hamburg's city centre: this is where the VDR's office is located. (© VDR)


The majority of the VDR’s members are small to medium-sized companies from the shipping sector, which have been successfully owner- or family-operated or led by executives pursuing long-term strategies. Whether in good or difficult economic periods, it is vital for these companies being active in a very international business segment – be they large or small – to have a voice that is heard. The VDR is the voice that makes this happen.

Berlin, Bonn, Brussels, Geneva, London –VDR’s management and experts represent the interests of German shipowners at both the national and international levels. The VDR enjoys excellent access to all levels of decision-makers in politics and public administration. By being a member of multiple international organisations, VDR can directly engage with key bodies worldwide that make decisions affecting the maritime sector. Through ongoing networking efforts in Berlin, Bonn, Brussels, Geneva (home of the ILO) and London (home of the IMO), it ensures that the views of German shipowners are communicated to key players. At international level, VDR acts in close coordination with the leading umbrella organisations of the shipping sector. These include not only the ICS and the ECSA, but also BIMCO, INTERTANKO, the World Shipping Council and other representative bodies of the maritime sector, such as the International Group of P&I Clubs.

VDR also contributes its expertise to multilateral negotiations in order to ideally achieve a level playing field – with uniform competitive conditions and standards for maritime shipping on the global level – in the interests of German shipping companies. Examples of this include the four essential pillars of the international maritime regulatory framework: worldwide standards for improving safety (SOLAS), environmental protection (MARPOL), training (STCW) and working conditions (MLC). In Berlin – and at the Bonn-based offices of Germany’s federal ministries – the association has established working relationships based on mutual trust with the relevant representatives of the federal government as well as with representatives of the lower house of the German parliament (Bundestag) and ministry staffs. Since 2000 – and in no small part due to efforts of the VDR – National Maritime Conferences have been held. These serve as a high-ranking platform for the business community, social partners and policymakers to discuss Germany’s maritime policies while also enabling the maritime industry to inform the public about what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done.

Another key venue of the association’s activities is in Brussels, which is home to the European Commission, the European Parliament (in addition to Strasbourg), the European Council and many other decision-making bodies. Today, Brussels is the hub of and driving force behind European policymaking and regulation – including for shipping. VDR has its own representation in Brussels and actively contributes to the formulation of European maritime policies, which has become ever more important in recent years.

The work of other International and multilateral organisations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva also has a direct impact on the daily business of shipping companies. VDR therefore interacts closely with these organisations as a very active member of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

In London, the VDR especially supports the work of the ICS as an important observer at the meetings of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). VDR staff regularly take part in meetings of the IMO committees as members of ICS delegations, among other things, and contribute their expertise on site to efforts aimed at appropriately designing the key framework conditions for international shipping.