The federal government has recognised the problem of infrastructural decay and seeks more investments into transport routes. For Germany as a business location, this is admittedly a true challenge, as true as the necessity to invest heavily in transport routes.
Despite uncertainties, inclunding the embargo against Russia and the Brexit, Germany’s economy continues its growth track in 2016. Perspectives for the coming years give likewise reason for optimism. This development is also supported by a stable domestic economy, but the most important driver remains the export economy. And this driver can only function smoothly when it is supported by an efficient logistical connection in Germany. To put it another way: we need reliably working transport chains to transport our premium products cost-effectively, sustainably and most of all reliably to wherever they are in demand. German seaports play a key role in this and this role at the interface between the export nation Germany and its global sales markets will be even more important in the future. The “Seeverkehrsprognose 2030” (2030 maritime traffic forecast), which was presented in 2013 on behalf of the Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Development, documents this impressively: the handling of all German seaports will increase by 74 per cent from 2010 to 2030, or on average 2.8 per cent per year. The handling volume will increase from 269 to 468 million tonnes in the same period. For comparison: in the period from 2001 to 2010, the handling of sea cargo only increased by 1.4 per cent annually. According to the forecast, particularly strong growth can be seen in the container handling in German ports, with an average increase of 4.3 per cent annually.
The massive quantitative increase of sea cargo handling is just one aspect of those logistic challenges that the export nation Germany is faced with. The two other aspects are quality, including punctuality and reliability, and sustainability. A successful “energy transition”, after all, requires that transports are also organised as efficiently and resource saving as possible. The joint solution for all three challenges, capacity requirements, quality and sustainability, lies in the creation of intelligent supply chains, with an optimised interval of different traffic carriers and demand-orientated strengthening of traffic infrastructure, particularly in northern Germany. Because here, in the far north, is the “logistical heart” of the export nation Germany. If it is healthy, it strengthens the entire German national economy. A looming “calcification of the heart”, on the other hand, would be felt nationwide too and would act as a brake block for exports, growth and lastly the social prosperity. Investments in northern German transport routes and sea ports are therefore in the general interest of the entire federal republic.
Along with the demand-oriented expansion of the ports, the strengthening of both their seaward access and connection of ports to the hinterland play a central role. Seawards, a speedy fairway adjustment of the Lower Elbe river is particularly necessary to enable ships with a draught of up to 13.5 metres (independent of the tide) and up to 14.5 metres (dependent on the tide) to access the Port of Hamburg. Another point at the top of the agenda is the fairway adjustment of the Outer and Lower Weser river to increase the accessibility of the ports in Bremerhaven and Bremen. Just as important is the consistent expansion of connections of ports to the hinterland to enable a quick and efficient supply and removal of goods in our German ports. This would also make German ports more attractive to exporters in neighbouring countries. In its mobility agenda presented in 2013, the BDI rightly demanded to give priority in the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan to the expansion of connections of ports to the hinterland over other economically less profitable projects. A need exists in different sectors and traffic carriers. An important key project in the rail transport is the realisation of the so called “Y line”, the new and extended routes for freight traffic in the triangle between Hamburg, Bremen and Hannover. The extension of the A20 motorway in Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony, including the building of a permanent crossing of the Lower Elbe river, are also of utmost importance. The urgently required expansion of the A7 motorway at the northern access to Hamburg is already in progress. Here a capacity increase from four to six and six to eight lanes respectively will take place in the next years. The expansion of inland and sea waterways is of particular importance, especially in relation to the energy efficiency of cargo transportation. When it comes to strengthening the German inland waterway network, the demand for action goes far beyond northern Germany.
Jens Broder Knudsen
The author is a qualified shipping agent. He studied Business Administration and, after various positions in the USA and Hamburg, has worked for Sartori & Berger since 2002. Since 2008, he has been a managing partner there. Knudsen is vice chairman of the Zentralverband Deutscher Schiffsmakler (German Shipbrokers’ Association) and has been a member of the federal executive board of the German Economic Council since 2013.