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thyssenkrupp Marine Systems – 180 years of innovation

Marine Systems looks back on 180 years of history. Find out how our company has always invested in innovation to maintain its’ competitive edge – backed by over a century’s worth of experience and expertise.

Over the last two centuries, we, at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, have continuously invested in innovation to maintain our competitive edge –backed by decade’s worth of experience and expertise. Let us take a look at our company’s eventful history and our journey from Schweffel & Howaldt to thyssenkrupp Marine Systems.

"Our company's tradition is defined by the ability to try new things and reinvent itself," – this is how Dr. Alexander Orellano, COO, describes thyssenkrupp Marine Systems. After all, our company looks back on 180 years of know-how and development. This is how it all began.

The founding years

In 1838, the company "Maschinenbau & Eisengießerei Schweffel & Howaldt" was founded by Johann Schweffel, and August Ferdinand Howald. While today, everyone associates Marine Systems with shipbuilding; this was not yet the case in the founding years. In the beginning, our company was known for its’ steam engines and railroad cars. And it wasn’t until 1850 that the first German submarine "the Brandtaucher" was built at “ Schweffel & Howaldt” as a means to counter the Danish fleet

Interested parties can follow the path of history on site in Kiel on our plant premises in an exhibition

Interested visitors can follow our company's history in an exhibition at our shipyard in Kiel

Early shipbuilding and a new name

In 1879, the Schweffel family eventually left the company, leaving it to George Howaldt, who founded his first shipyard – later know as Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft or HDW – shortly after. Only 4 years later in 1883, he built his hundredth ship "Emma". But the wave of success did not last long. Due to the shipbuilding crisis, a shadow was cast over the company in 1900.

Follow thyssenkrupp Marine Systems history and milestones at our shipyard in Kiel.

Wars, bankruptcies and new beginnings

1926 – a year marked by the First World War, also meant trouble for Howaldt and his business. Due to the war, many orders were lost, and the shipyard went bankrupt. In the same year, Heinrich Diederichsen came along. Diederichsen, a businessman born in Kiel, saved the business and put the shipyard back on course.

Supertankers, containers and cruise ships


Only a decade later the Second World War hit and again brought a loss of money and orders. Until two clients promised a new start: the Norwegian ship owner Anders Jahre and the Greek Aristotle Onassis. In 1950, Jahre had his former German whaling ship converted into the whale cooking plant KOSMOS IV in Kiel and continued send his whaling fleet for maintenance and repair to Howaldt. By 1963, 19 more new buildings had followed: eleven oil tankers, three bulk carriers, three freighters and finally, two ferries. Onassis also began converting ships into whalers in Kiel. By 1963 he had ordered 14 oil tankers, including the world's first supertanker, the TINA ONASSIS.

Return of German submarine construction


And the success continued. During the cold war, submarine construction was back in demand. In 1968, the company built its first nuclear freighter "OTTO HAHN" and many other ships followed. Among them, nine Class 205 submarines in the 1960ies. Thanks to continuous development, its successor class 209, became one of the most popular submarines to date. Nowadays, more than 60 boats in different versions are sailing for 14 navies worldwide. The DOLPHIN class is another prime example of this constant research and development.


The year 1994 represented a revolution for the submarine world. The introduction of the fuel cell closed the gap between conventionally diesel powered and nuclear boats.



A new start with thyssenkrupp


On January 5th, 2005 the time had finally come: HDW and ThyssenKrupp Werften came together under the new name ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. When the financial crisis hit in 2008 the group of shipyards was faced with its first challenge. Civil shipbuilding was now no longer viable. To save the company, the shipyards Blohm+Voss, Nordseewerke and Nobiskrug were sold. Five years later Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft GmbH and Blohm+Voss Naval GmbH merged again, forming Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems GmbH. In 2015 ThyssenKrupp became thyssenkrupp and brought to life a new slogan along with it’s rebranding: "engineering. tomorrow. together.". A motto, fitting to the innovative history of the shipbuilding segment.


From this point things went uphill. With a strong tailwind from the Essen-based group, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems returned to its previous success. In 2017, ATLAS ELEKTRONIK GmbH joined as a subsidiary, allowing even further modernization and development in naval technologies.

Innovation and perseverance until today


Over the course if its history, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems has overcome many obstacles, but never stopped to modernize its products and services. This perseverance and innovative strength is what shapes and drives the company to this day. In 2020 thyssenkrupp Marine Systems could successfully weather the global pandemic and win the largest order in its history in 2021. Four submarines for the German and Norwegian Navy will be built were it all began more than 180 years ago – at home in Kiel.