HAMBURG Hamburg mayor Peter Tschentscher asked the federal government to do more for German seaports. “Other countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, have a national port strategy,” an SPD politician told a German news agency. They took a targeted approach and supported their main ports in Rotterdam and Antwerp while involving other port locations. “There is no active national federal government policy supporting ports in Germany,” he complained.
With Green politics Claudia Müller, who works at the Federal Ministry of Economy Robert Habeck (Greens), there is a maritime coordinator for the federal government, “but she works very much in the background,” Tschentscher said. “When that happens, port cities make their own decisions.”
Tschentscher received support on Tuesday from the Central Union of German Port Companies (ZDS). “We as ZDS also stand for a strong and strategic national port policy that goes beyond departmental boundaries and federal accountability,” explained the president of the Central Association, Frank Dreeke. “The federal government must finally give this port strategy the highest priority and involve all federal states and all port companies in their various cargoes.”
The Federal Ministry of Transport pointed out that the starting signal for the development of a national port strategy was issued at the end of June – as stipulated in the traffic light coalition agreement. Under the leadership of the ministry, a suitable template for the federal cabinet should be developed by 2024 together with the Länder, associations and trade unions.
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According to Tschentscher, the federal government must contribute more to port investments. The mayor stressed: “Seaports are of great importance for connecting the German economy with international markets.”
The crisis is now showing, in particular, the importance of ports for the economy, supply chains and human supply. “It is important that the federal government and the European Commission look after maritime infrastructure and logistics in the same way as the Chinese government.”
Tschentscher said the federal government must also actively look after the interests of German ports beyond the waterfront. “For example, by extending the rail network close to the ports and accelerating the digitization of railways.”
Competition between the ports of Bremen, Wilhelmshaven and Hamburg is distracting attention from the fact that “the real competition is in Rotterdam and Antwerp,” he said, and is promoting collaboration again. “The Senates of Bremen and Hamburg support the idea of a joint terminal company and a joint strategy for the three major North German seaports.”
Despite political support, the Hamburg HHLA and Bremen Eurogate suspended negotiations for a joint operation of North German container terminals a year ago, at least for the time being. It was decided to “postpone the talks until the framework conditions for a successful follow-up were sufficiently stable,” the companies said.
The publicly traded HHLA, largely owned by the city of Hamburg, has been in talks with Eurogate since spring 2020 to merge the eight container terminals of the two companies in Hamburg, Bremerhaven and Wilhelmshaven as part of a joint venture.
“I still think the project makes sense,” said Tschentscher. But the port of Hamburg itself is strong. “We have advantages that no other port in Europe can offer, such as very good rail connections to the hinterland.” In addition, there is a good inland waterway network, a strong regional industry and “generally good logistics”.
Moreover, good connection with the German ports is also urgently needed for environmental reasons. Overall, the rail infrastructure for container logistics in Germany needs to become more efficient to remove containers from the streets, Tschentscher said. “It is also urgently needed to meet climate protection goals.”