Skip to main content



Monday, January 27, 2020 

As German shipyard Meyer Werft prepares to celebrate its 225th anniversary on 28th January 2020, the present management looks back over its highlights.

“It is an extraordinary achievement to look on 225 years of ship building. We developed our family company further with pioneering spirit and courage and permanently adapted to changing markets to assert ourselves over state-owned and partly state-owned competitors”, said Bernard Meyer.

The team in Papenburg, completing three ships per year, has grown to 3,625 employees now. Meyer Werft also secures employment for thousands of specialists working for hundreds of suppliers and partner companies.

Meyer Werft is still growing and will deliver ships with more than 400,000 gt for the first time. Iona (P&O Cruises), Spirit of Adventure (Saga Cruises) and Odyssey of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International) will be handed over to international customers. Iona will be the 50th cruise ship built in Papenburg.

“We have always been investing profits into our employees and our modern facilities in Papenburg to secure local employment. The continuity as a family company, as well as our ship building know-how, make us unique”, said Tim Meyer.

Today’s yard was inconceivable when Willm Rolf Meyer founded the company as Thurm Werft in 1795. In its early days, the shipyard built wooden sailing ships, but quickly became the first shipyard in the region to build ships from iron and equip them with steam engines. The Triton paddle steamer in 1872 was the first ship of this kind. By this time, the company was in its third generation of family management, under Joseph Lambert Meyer and 90% of the ship was built by the yard itself.

In 1913, the company performed yet another pioneering act, with the construction of the Graf Goetzen. After its completion, this passenger/freight vessel was dismantled, packed into crates, transported to Lake Tanganyika in what is now Tanzania, and reassembled. It remains in use there to this day.

Following the economic crash and two world wars, a decision taken at an early stage not to construct naval vessels meant that the shipyard was soon able to rebuild its operations. A new ship was delivered in 1948, in the form of the light vessel Elbe 1 (Bürgermeister Oswald), which, due to numerous interruptions, took a total of nine years to build. The completion of Elbe 1 became important for the whole Ems region, when bridges and railroad lines were made renovated for the ship’s conveyance down the River Ems.

In the post-war period, Joseph-Franz Meyer was soon concentrating his attention on the international markets. The Mauritius was an important order by the British Commonwealth. In the late 1950s the long term partnership to Indonesia began, resulting in many passenger vessels, 34 ships in total being built for Indonesia. Joseph-Franz and Godfried Meyer were responsible for the construction of many ferries for Scandinavian shipping companies, and for entering the gas tanker market. Yet another unusual and courageous move, and one which was to have a considerable effect on the company's development, came about in 1974. In the middle of the Cold War, the shipyard got a contract to build six gas tankers for the former Soviet Union – and at the same time the company began building a new shipyard on the edge of Papenburg, directly on the River Ems.

“Due to the peripheral location of Papenburg the shipyard focused on international markets early to export complex vessels like cruise ships. With Meyer Werft, Neptun Werft And Meyer Turku we have an international network of shipyards, which further increase our competitiveness”, said Dr Jan Meyer.

The new compact shipyard at the company's present location coupled with its successful entry into the cruise ship market enabled the company to continually develop both the yard's facilities and the know-how of its employees. The shipyard built two covered shipbuilding docks, an innovative laser and pipe centre, and a large and highly specialised supplier family. Currently a new modern logistics centre is under construction.

The Homeric in 1986 was the first large-scale complex project in the cruise ship market to be completed by Meyer Werft in Papenburg. This ship ushered in a boom in the cruise ship market. The location on the Ems was clearly the right place to produce cruise ships and other special-purpose vessels.

In 2018 Meyer Werft again was a pioneer when AIDAnova, the world’s first completely low-emission LNG-fuelled cruise ship, was handed over to AIDA Cruises. Seven more cruise ships with this environmental friendly technology will be completed by Meyer Werft in Papenburg by 2023.

Today, the family-owned company maintains three shipyards; in Papenburg, Rostock-Warnemünde and Turku. Further companies of the Meyer Group are specialists in the development and construction of ships and/or ship components at all three shipyards.

Reader Comments (0)

There are currently no comments on this article. Why not be the first and leave your thoughts below.

Leave Your Comment

Please keep your comment on topic, any inappropriate comments may be removed.

Return to index