Bremer Vulkan AG was founded 1893 in Vegesack-a suburb of the city of Bremen–by a group of investors and Bremen merchants and by overtaking the 1805 founded Johann Lange Shipyard. Two years later the Bremer Vulkan bought the Bremer Schiffbaugesellschaft – former H. F. Ulrichs Shipyard which launched the first ship in 1839 – including all its modern shipbuilding facilities. The first director of the Bremer Vulkan became the engineer Victor Nawatzki (1855–1940).
In the following years the Bremer Vulkan increased rapidly. By 1908 it covered an area of about 80 acres (32 ha) and a water frontage of 1,500 metres (4,900 ft). Six slips equipped with modern electric travelling cranes were capable of building the largest vessels of that time. With an average annual delivery of about 40000 BRT it became the greatest civilian shipbuilding company in the German Empire, followed by Flensburger Schiffbaubetriebe in Flensburg, Joh. C. Tecklenborg in Bremerhaven and Vulcan Stettin in Stettin. The number of co-workers had increased from about 60 at the beginning up to about 3,300 in 1912.
During World War I the Bremer Vulkan built warships. Altogether 11 minesweepers (M 39–M 42 and M 54–M 56, M 71–M 74) and in cooperation with the Germaniawerft in Kiel some submarine hulls and 6 complete submarines (U-160–U-163) were built for the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial German Navy).
After the war Bremer Vulkan continued its successful development. Different types of ships were built first mainly for German ship owners and with an increasing amount also for foreign ship owners later. An important progress was the change of ship propulsion from steam engines to diesel engines. In cooperation and under licence from MAN the Bremer Vulkan started the production of diesel ship-engines.
During World War II, 74 different Type VII U-boats were constructed for the Kriegsmarine. The Vulkan facility was several times target of the bombing of Bremen in World War II. The greatest bombing attack happened in March 1943 by the US Air Force. By the so-called “precise bombing” many buildings and U-boats under construction as well as surrounding private buildings were destroyed or damaged. 116 people were killed and additional 118 injured. Despite the great destruction, production of U-boats could be continued within a few weeks.
During the war about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) downstream from the BV-shipyard between the Bremen suburbs Rekum [de; nds] and Farge the submarine bunker Valentin was under construction. Here under management of the BV and beginning end of 1945 monthly 15 U-boats should be assembled from prefabricated sections. Those were delivered from the following shipyards Bremer Vulkan AG, Deschimag AG Weser in Bremen, Deschimag Seebeck AG in Bremerhaven and Blohm + Voss in Hamburg. However, the bunker was not finished before the end of the war and no U-boats were ever built there. The building itself still exists today and is partly used as a memorial to the many forced labourers from nearby concentration camps who worked and died there during construction of the bunker.
Dr. Robert Kabelac – director of the BV from 1935 to 1960 – managed to avoid the dismantling of the BV after war as this happened to most other German shipyards. The company was allowed to resume shipbuilding already in 1949. Production could soon be continued, starting with repair of ships and locomotives and the construction of fishing vessels. Soon later the shipbuilding programme was enlarged and various types of ships were offered to the market as container/multi purpose cargo ships, passenger liners, passenger-cargo vessels, roll-on/roll-off ships, LNG and LPG tankers, supply ships, special-purpose ships, reefer vessels and others. By the end of the 1970s the BV became a world leader in container delivered capacity and in innovative container ship design.
Beginning in the 1980s for the first time except wartimes of course also naval ships were built. As the general contractor the BV started in cooperation with other German shipbuilding companies the construction of frigates for the German Navy.
In the 1980s the BV merged with other German shipbuilding companies and became the largest shipbuilding company in Germany. The new Bremer Vulkan Verbund AG or the so-called Vulkan Group consisted of the following divisions at that time:
Division Shipbuilding, including the seven German shipyards Bremer Vulkan Werft (Bremen-Vegesack), Geeste Metallbau GmbH (Bremen), Flender Werft (Lübeck), Lloyd Werft, Rickmers Lloyd Dockbetrieb GmbH, Schichau Seebeckwerft (all in Bremerhaven) and Neue Jadewerft (Wilhelmshaven)
Division Naval Shipbuilding
Division Electronic and Systems Technology
After the German reunification in 1990 the Vulkan Group was enlarged by the Division Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, including the east German shipyards Matthias-Thesen Werft in Wismar and Volkswerft Stralsund in Stralsund.
At that time Vulkan Group included altogether about 22,000 co-workers in Germany, of that about 18,000 in the shipbuilding divisions.
List of ships built
- 1816, First German steamship Die Weser, built by Johann Lange’s shipyard
- 1872, First steel-hull ship built at Ulrich’s shipyard
- 1898, cargo and passenger steamer Schwalbe; construction of larger steamers began with this ship at Bremer Vulkan
- 1893, sailing fishing vessel BV2 Vegesack; still existing today in Vegesacker Hafen (Vegesack Museum Harbour)
- 1915, Passenger ship Zeppelin, later USS Zeppelin; greatest[clarification needed] ship of the BV at that time
- 1925, Passenger ship Berlin; later Russian ship SS Admiral Nakhimov, sunk 1986
- 1926, M/V Ruhr; the first motor ship built at Bremer Vulkan
- 1928, the World’s biggest tanker, MV C.O. Stillman
- 1938, M/V Goldenfels; she became a legend as auxiliary cruise of Atlantis
- 1939, HAPAG turbo-electric cargo ship Arauca; converted in 1941–42 into the US Navy auxiliary ship USS Saturn
- 1939, DDG Hansa cargo ship Goldenfels; in WWII converted into the auxiliary cruiser Atlantis; sunk by Royal Navy cruiser HMS Devonshire in 1941
- 1949, F/V Oskar Schulze; the new beginning after the Second World War
- 1959, Rebuilding of the former French passenger ship SS Pasteur to the new TS Bremen
- 1964, German merchant fleet’s first fully automated refrigerated cargo ship Nienburg
- 1969, M/V Aegis Pioneer; one of the first ships of the “German Liberty Type” and one of the most successful ship series in the world
- 1971, T/V ACT 3; one of many second generation full container ships built by Bremer Vulkan,
- 1974, T/T Lagena; the construction dock, which was actually designed for other types of ships, made it possible to enter into the construction of large tankers
- 1976, M/V City of Winchester; the result of the consistent development of the “German Liberty Type” “Bremen ProgressType”
- 1977, M/V Australian Venture; third generation container ship
- 1981, Cruise liner M/S Europa for shipping company Hapag-Lloyd
- 1982, First Bremen-class frigate F 207/Bremen for the German Navy; followed 1987 by F 213/Augsburg
- 1983, Cargo ship Pharos; worldwide greatest ship equipped with propulsion system “Grim Vane Wheel” (in German: Grimsches Leitrad)
- 1987, M/Y Al Dhaferah
- 1996, Luxury passenger cruiser Costa Victoria in collaboration with Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven
- 1996, Hull of a luxury passenger cruiser Costa Olympia
- 1997, 2,700 TEU container ships Hansa Century and Hansa Constitution
- 2000, M/Y Le Grand Blue