Holger Matzen: Logistics location Schleswig-Holstein – Dynamics in Northern Germany

Logistics is one of the core competencies of this northernmost German state. Schleswig-Holstein, together with Hamburg, is an important hub for the German export economy, particularly with Scandinavia and the Baltic states.

Schleswig-Holstein is the hub for logistics between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The state’s ports handle a majority of German imports and exports to and from Scandinavia, Finland, Russia and the Baltic states. Denmark is the state’s neighbour to the north; the port of Hamburg borders to the south. Schleswig-Holstein is the home to logistics experts

The results of a traffic integration forecast published by the Federal Transport Ministry in summer 2014 state that by 2030, freight transport volume (measured in tonne kilometres) will have increased by 38 per cent in Germany since 2010. The value of imports and exports will double and the average transport distance – in Germany, mind you – will also continue to increase. The railway transport system is expected to grow by 43 per cent, inland vessels by almost 23 per cent. Road­ways will carry the brunt of transport with a growth of 39 per cent. However, these numbers vary when broken down to the northernmost German state: Railway transport in northern Germany, especially around the Hamburg junction, is already at its limits and inland vessels generally play a minor role in transports in the north.

These figures, which are already reflected in roadway traffic, are also of concern to logistics experts in Schleswig-Holstein. Many of them participate in the Logistics Initiative Schleswig-Holstein: freight forwarders with an increasing number of added value services as well as production and trading enterprises with their own logistics and vehicle fleets. All of them must face these challenges, which are already large enough even without the predicted growth, together with science and politics. Next to the looming shortage of skilled labour or the adaptation to the digital future, it is, above all, the current infrastructure that is creating difficulties for all parties involved.

But agreement on these issues does exist with the closest neighbours Denmark and Hamburg. The port of Hamburg, of existential importance to Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark, has its hands full in dealing with growth rates in ocean freight of over 100 per cent by 2030, and space to expand is limited. The situation is even tenser when it comes to the port’s hinterland traffic, particularly heading north, in Schleswig-Holstein and continuing on to Scandinavia and Baltic countries. And Russia will again play a role in all this once the trade barriers fall.

Denmark, like Schleswig-Holstein threatened by shortage of skilled labour, also shares infrastructure problems – dilapidated bridges here and there. A positive mention must be made, however, of the closer collaboration on governmental level and in the Logistics Initiative Schleswig-Holstein. The permanent Fehmarn-Belt crossing, the most ambitious traffic project in northern Europe, is progressive despite all gloomy predictions by the media; German-Danish cooperation works. The German project on motorway A20, involving the crossing of the Elbe river to the west of Hamburg, is only coming along gradually, but is highly anticipated by the Scandinavians due to the fact that it presents an option for bypassing Hamburg’s traffic bottleneck. The six-lane extension of motorway A7 is given high marks by everyone: Schleswig-Holstein is praised for its management of the federal project and for its information policy, which keeps all concerned parties up-to-date. The Logistics Initiative Schleswig-Holstein provided effective assistance when it came to conveying information.

Here, the Initiative serves as a mediator between politics, responsible ministry, practitioners from logistics departments involved in production and trade, and pure logistics companies. The interplay between the above parties highlights the state’s logistics potential, especially when other partners, such as the business promotion agencies on a state and regional level, scientists from universities of applied sciences, universities and other institutions are committed to the great extent like they are in Schleswig-Holstein. This makes it possible to identify the know-how in the multilingualism of the experts: next to the obligatory skills in English, there are always sufficient Russian and Danish language skills around to drive a project forward on an international scale. This can be decisive, for example, when oversize or heavy load transports cross national borders.

Schleswig-Holstein is well-prepared for the future of logistics. As we all know, this starts tomorrow and the Logistics Initiate Schleswig-Holstein will do its part.

Foto-Matzen2014Holger Matzen
The son of an entrepreneur, born in 1963, completed various trainings in the freight forwarding sector and assumed management positions in the national and international freight forwarding industry during his professional career. Today, he is the head of logistics at the largest freight forwarding company in Schleswig-Holstein and is honorary chairman of the Logistics Initiative Schleswig-Holstein and the Logistics working group in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Schleswig-Holstein.