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