GICAN’s president Hervé Guillou gave us an overview of some current and future initiatives that could help the naval industry keep its head out of the water.
How is this pandemic impacting – and will probably continue to impact – the naval industry ?
The naval industry produces and maintains very complex systems. Shipyards employees, but also often equipment manufacturers, must work in a very small space, with very precise gestures which often require the simultaneous presence of several people: it is for this reason that, as soon as the sanitary measures were announced by the Government, the majority of shipyards had to temporarily stop their activity. Many companies now use part-time working, and those who can do so are teleworking, especially for design, study or support functions. This will necessarily lead to delay a number of orders, but I am convinced that the relations with our national and international customers are sufficiently trustful that the contractual management can be resolved without conflicts. Obviously, the French naval industry continued during this period, in a downgraded situation, to maintain the permanence of essential activities necessary to allow the French Navy to continue its missions and for the permanence of deterrence. It is for this reason that none of the Naval Group’s sites have completely closed: virus or not, and the security functions are all ensured.
Have you implemented a business continuity plan ? If so, what are your priorities ?
On the scale of each company, the continuity of activities is based on the commitment of the employees, who are numerous, every day, to ensure the managerial and commercial permanence as well as the relationship with customers through teleworking. Obviously, this commitment must be welcomed despite the sometimes complex situations.
Are you already working on the after-crisis ?
Fortunately, the French naval industry will not start from a clean sheet: we can count on our recent successes and robust order books, in France and abroad, to bounce back at best. Our customers will remain fully confident in our ability to deliver quality products despite this crisis and the necessary calendar arrangements. In France, the GICAN is closely working with the Government to enable companies to benefit as much as possible from the various emergency measures and thus help ensure their survival, especially for the smallest. Our plan to end the crisis will have to be drawn up with the public authorities and will force us more than ever to develop solidarity within the sector. It is in a period like this that the relations between the Government and industry, large groups and SMEs, contractors and suppliers, must be exemplary. The way out of the crisis is building now, and we can see that in a number of countries, activities have never stopped or are already starting again. These are all export opportunities that companies in the French naval industry should not miss, hence the need to resume as quickly as possible while ensuring optimal security.
Which actions did the GICAN take to support the naval sector ?
The first priority was to ensure the site health security, so that all employees could continue their activity and / or make it possible to resume activities as soon as possible. Today, GICAN coordinates orders for masks and gels across the industry. The GICAN has also sent a guide of good practice offering various sanitary and organizational measures to ensure respect for social distancing or hygiene in buildings and construction sites. A small committee has been set up, bringing together site managers to report on the situation every week and take the appropriate decisions for the entire value chain. The GICAN team regularly transmit the relevant information to all members and are at the disposal of all the industrial base, member or not, to support them in their efforts with the wish not to overwhelm them with information.
What can we expect from a potential recovery plan for this sector ? Do you think that ordering an aircraft carrier would make sense to guarantee industrial load at Naval Group, Chantiers de l’Atlantique, TechnicAtome and of course at the hundreds of suppliers in the sector?
Indeed, public procurement in the defense sector, as in the maritime sector, will be absolutely essential to revive the activity of our industry. We have an ambitious military planning law which must be implemented, may be adjusted, and we will submit proposals in this context, particularly for new projects to be launched. In terms of industrial recovery, we must be ambitious and turn this crisis into opportunities. It is not just orders, it is in the spirit of the productive pact project and the work of the National Industry Council to consolidate our sector and invest to renew our offer and improve our competitiveness. Complementary measures are also necessary to initiate an industrial development policy: sovereignty, the resilience of our supply chains, the development of professional training, the improvement of R&D funding mechanisms and the legitimacy of trade-offs in supply chains at public offices, the protection of companies from foreign takeover bids and the revision of the rules of the competition authorities to facilitate consolidation in France and Europe…