* Current head to quit chairmanship by end-Feb.
* New chairman says HSH has difficult road ahead
* HSH struggling to master shipping, financial crises (Adds confirmation, Mirow comment, Hamburg dateline)
By Jan Schwartz and Andreas Kröner
HAMBURG/FRANKFURT, Jan 11 Struggling ship financier HSH Nordbank has appointed the former head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Thomas Mirow, as its next chairman, according to a statement on Friday.
The German city state of Hamburg and the state of Schleswig Holstein, which together own 85 percent of HSH, said in the statement that Mirow would take over from current chairman Hilmar Kopper, 77, who will step down by the end of February.
Mirow will have the task of keeping HSH on course as it rolls through a deep, four-year slump in the shipping industry in the wake of the financial crisis that forced its owners to extend it billions of euros in aid.
Last month the public-sector owners of the bank said they were examining the possibility of increasing state aid to prop up the bank in face of higher potential losses from shipping loans.
Moody's analyst Katharina Barten recently told Reuters that she sees HSH as being the weakest bank among Germany's seven public-sector lenders called landesbanks. "The bank continues to rely on the support of its owners," she added.
Mirow told a news conference: "I am aware that HSH Nordbank still has a difficult road ahead of it." He added that hopes that the crisis would soon be over were unlikely to be fulfilled.
Reuters reported earlier on Friday that Mirow, who was head of the EBRD until mid-2012 and who has also served as German deputy finance minister and as economy minister in Hamburg, was set to get the job.
"Thomas Mirow's close political contact at the state, federal and European level and his track record of technical and leadership competence in the financial industry makes him ideally prepared for this challenging role," HSH Chief Executive Constantin von Oesterreich said in a statement.
HSH said earlier on Friday that current chairman and former Deutsche Bank chief executive Kopper had decided to step down by the end of February at the latest, more than a year before his contract expires.
Kopper took over the chairmanship of HSH in mid-2009, as the lender struggled with fallout from the financial crisis. He made clear at the time that he did not plan to serve out the full term of his five-year appointment as chairman. (Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze and Harro ten Wolde, Writing by Jonathan Gould; Editing by Mark Potter and Elaine Hardcastle)