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This is how Hamburg's port should go into the next decade

Hamburg's port should be climate-neutral by 2040, handle a little more than a third of today's volume and act as a digital, highly innovative center of the European maritime economy.

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This is how Hamburg's port should go into the next decade

Hamburg's port should be climate-neutral by 2040, handle a little more than a third of today's volume and act as a digital, highly innovative center of the European maritime economy. These are some of the core statements from the confidential draft of the "Port Development Plan 2040", which has been awaited for months and which is available to WELT.

The Hamburg Economic Authority and the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) submitted the draft to the associations involved in the development of the port strategy, such as the environmental associations or the UVHH business association, on Thursday.

The associations now have three weeks to comment. The responsible authorities then finally agree on the port development plan, the Senate decides on it and gives it to the citizens for information. The draft was preceded by an intensive participation process in which citizens were also involved digitally.

The document contains a first part of 41 pages, in which the situation of the port and its development prospects for the coming decades are outlined. The second, 46-page part describes the desired implementation of the measures, for example in digitization, infrastructure or climate protection, but also in the interaction of port and urban development. For example, the port is also to be expanded as a logistics hub for growing e-commerce.

The port development plan stands in sharp contrast to a thesis paper from the "Hamburg Convention" from a few days ago, which suggests greater use of port areas for scientific purposes and considers stagnation in the port's handling volumes to be acceptable.

The port strategy of the red-green Senate, on the other hand, aims to make the port not only an innovation engine for itself, but for the entire metropolitan region. “The Port of Hamburg is also positioning itself in 2040 as one of the leading logistics hubs in Europe. It is characterized by goods handling, cruise shipping, a diverse corporate landscape of traditional and new port companies and a broad, climate-neutral industrial base," says the introductory passage. "With their sustainable added value, the companies in the port are the economic engine of the entire region."

The new port development plan replaces the last such paper from 2012. The public debate about the new plan will begin at an extremely difficult time for the port: the federal government cannot maintain the drafts hoped for from the ninth Elbe deepening for the largest seagoing vessels , calling at Hamburg. There is no long-term concept for dealing with the increasing amounts of sediment in the Lower Elbe, which Hamburg must develop together with the federal government and neighboring states in order to keep Germany's largest seaport competitive.

The dispute over Cosco's planned participation in HHLA's Tollerort terminal has shown that the Port of Hamburg must reconsider and possibly correct its high dependence on trade with China, which accounts for 30 percent of container throughput. The failed attempt this summer to bring a floating import terminal for deep-frozen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the Port of Hamburg in 2023 could mean that Hamburg will be much more closely knit than it has been with the ports of Stade and Stade in the forthcoming transformation of the energy industry Brunsbüttel cooperates - not only with LNG, but also in a future hydrogen economy.

In terms of volume development, the draft port development plan 2040 is significantly more defensive than the 2012 plan. At the time, Hamburg still had an annual handling potential of up to 25 million container units (TEU). Since then, however, Hamburg's container throughput has stagnated at around nine million TEU a year. Container traffic in Hamburg has never exceeded the ten million TEU mark.

Last year, Hamburg handled a total of 129 million tons of goods. “Prospectively, a moderate increase in turnover can be assumed. A handling forecast commissioned by the HPA predicts a market potential of 176.7 million tons for all goods handling and 13.1 million TEU for container handling by the year 2035 in the basic scenario. "That corresponds to an increase of about 37 percent in terms of tonnage."

From the point of view of the Senate and the port administration, the risks for port operations include the growing power of the shipping companies with fewer and larger players who are striving for more and more shares in port terminals and influence on the transport chain. The development of new flows of goods cannot be foreseen in an increasingly volatile world situation. Above all, the ship sizes that may continue to grow could have a negative effect for Hamburg.

The Port of Hamburg can handle container ships with today's largest capacities of up to 24,000 TEU, which come to the Hanseatic city - always only partially loaded - after considerable investments in quay facilities and container gantries in recent years, and at the price of a decades-long dispute over the Elbe deepening.

The shipping companies, on the other hand, have long been exploring whether much larger ships would be profitable. “Ships with slot capacities of over 28,000 TEU are considered conceivable by experts. In the past, this development triggered adjustment processes in the ports. Hamburg therefore supports possible European initiatives to limit the growth in ship size,” says the draft port development plan.

One of the key points of the new port strategy is climate-neutral port operations by 2040. "The Port of Hamburg is significantly reducing greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions in handling and transport in order to make operations carbon-neutral from 2040 onwards," it says. "This is done with a technology-open approach that relies on the innovative potential on site."

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