“We are 100 % committed to the Port of Cuxhaven”
Interview with Daniela Behrens, State Secretary at the Lower Saxony Ministry of Economic Affairs, Employment and Transport
Mrs Behrens, as you mentioned at the Maritime Conference in Cuxhaven at the end of June, you are not very amused by the funding plans for the offshore terminal in Bremerhaven – especially since the needed infrastructure already exists in Cuxhaven. In your opinion, was this not communicated effectively? Or is there perhaps enough demand for both terminals?
My lack of amusement concerned the talks with the Federal Government regarding the distribution of the financial burden when constructing new port infrastructure. The offshore location Northern Germany has excellent potential. After the very difficult past months, the industry appears to be recovering. In the past decade, the state of Lower Saxony has itself invested more than 200 million Euros into port expansions for the offshore industry. The only German heavy lift dock is located in Cuxhaven. When the Federal Government gets involved financially in the creation of additional offshore infrastructure, we emphasize that those states, which have made advance concessions in this regard, should not be disadvantaged. The talks regarding this topic are still under way.
The preservation and expansion of its infrastructure is imperative for Germany. What is the current position of the State Government regarding the expansion of the Port of Cuxhaven?
Cuxhaven has great potential. Since their election, the State Government, led by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) with Prime Minister Stephan Weil and Minister of Economic Affairs Olaf Lies, has been committed to the potential and necessities of infrastructure expansion at the Port of Cuxhaven. In the first year, we already tackled the realisation of berth no. 4 (LP4) and have committed to its construction. The legal planning permission was granted years ago. It was the previous government that had not managed to get into gear. Through NPorts, we will be investing 36 million Euros in the expansion of the terminal capacities. The necessary notification at the European Commission is currently in progress. The tender for the new operator has been arranged. We will be able to start the construction next year. In addition, we have invested nearly three million Euros in the new dolphin berth at the Amerikahafen for the development of Cuxhaven’s automobile handling capacities. The dolphin berth has gone into operation this month. We are also renovating the Helgoland Fracht-Kontor site and the blacktop at the Cuxport site. And we will invest two million Euros into the retrofitting of the Steubenhoeft dock in order to clear the way for the new Cuxhaven-Brunsbuettel ferry connection. We are standing by for berths no 8 and 9 as well as the offshore base port, if the investors require adjustments. Finally, we will continue to develop berths no 5 to 7 according to demand. We are 100% committed to the Port of Cuxhaven.
In June, the German seaport and shipping organisations held a joined press conference in Berlin, where they issued an appeal to save the German seafarers. Which influence or contribution can the State Government issue in order to, for example, implement the rules and regulations for the subsidy of seafarers in Lower Saxony that is already valid for the rest of Europe?
We are worried about Germany as a shipping location. Lower Saxony and the other four North German states have launched several initiatives to continue to point out essential changes and request the Federal Government to act. In February 2015, the states issued a declaration regarding this topic. It concerns, among other things, the compulsory insurance for “ship proceeds pools” or the income tax abasement for German seafarers. The continuing critical situation of the shipping industry in addition to the increased cost pressures lead to problems for the German shipping companies. The operation of ships under German flag is not competitive compared to the rest of Europe. The results and consequences are catastrophic. More and more shipping companies flag out their ships. More and more German seafarers lose their jobs. We demand improvements. Time is short. My hope is that the Federal Government will have implemented some of these improvements by this autumn, when the National Maritime Conference will be held in Bremerhaven.