The Siemens project: “We always stayed on the ball”
Interview with Dr Hans-Joachim Stietzel, Managing Director of the Economic Development Agency of Cuxhaven
Dr Stietzel, the Siemens contract was a huge win for the location and economy of Cuxhaven. How do you sum up the last years as well as the positive result?
The search for Siemens’ new location already began in 2008. Back then, more than 50 port locations in Europe were in the running and the selection process extended over several years. Siemens chose Hull for their rotor blade production in March 2014, but they continued searching for a location to produce turbines. We, the Economic Development Agency of Cuxhaven (AfW) as well as other involved parties, continued to advertise our location over the years. We received several Siemens Windpower delegations and continuously issued unsolicited invitations. We always stayed on the ball and in the end, our insistence as well as the hard facts of the location Cuxhaven payed off.
The decisive argument for Cuxhaven was that the port’s offshore base is already completed and that we are the only German port on the North Sea coast that has two finished offshore terminals. Another crucial point was the continued backing by the state of Lower Saxony. The previous as well as the current federal state government have substantially supported the extension of the offshore base. This has led us to maintain the leading position in this area. Of course, the whole project was developed through teamwork. The AfW coordinated the tender and maintained the exchange of information between the different parties. We also experienced excellent cooperation with the Lower Saxon Ministry for Economic Affairs, Employment and Transport as well as NPorts. This is how we became the finalists and won the settlement contract in the end. The negotiations that stretched over several months were very intense and we were in direct contact with Siemens nearly every day. It was an emotional rollercoaster for the whole team, which is why the joy was even greater when it was finally announced that the production site would be built in Cuxhaven.
How did you experience the moment when you got the news?
Our Lord Mayor Dr Getsch received the call and immediately called me. After so many years, it takes a certain amount of time to realise and absorb the whole dimension and relevance of this decision. But then the reception was immensely positive. We haven’t yet managed to organise some sort of party, since things needed to move quickly and we, as well as Siemens, are under some pressure to finish preparing everything by 2017. But we are planning an occasion, where all those involved can celebrate and review the project accordingly.
In the next phase, the task forces will continue to accompany the construction of the new site. What tasks will you be handling in this respect and which challenges will you encounter?
There are two task forces coordinated by the AfW. The first task force handles the construction of the production site. The building will encompass 45,000 m2 and there is a strict timeframe. For now, construction continues with a partial building permission in order to start with the civil engineering – meaning the fortification of the raised site – as well as the building construction – meaning the production halls themselves. This, of course, includes many other aspects, many of which concern specialised departments of the city of Cuxhaven. Our task is to be a fixed contact for Siemens and to solve arising problems as fast as possible and in direct contact with the client. In this respect, we have already gained a lot of experience through previous settlements such as AMBAU and CSC that is paying off now.
The second task force contains the Employment Agency, the Jobcenter as well as the vocational schools of Cuxhaven and concerns the personnel recruitment. We have already been working with the Siemens Human Resources department for several months in this regard. Siemens has also used the Windcareer job fair at HUSUM Wind to advertise for jobs in Cuxhaven. Together with Siemens, we have conceptualised the next steps and are meeting in regular intervals. This is a national job hunt, since the new site will need around 1,000 employees. Siemens is looking for engineers, mechanics, electricians, logistics experts as well as specialised staff for the quality management. A detailed description can be found on a specially designed Siemens website for Cuxhaven: www.siemens.de/cuxhaven-jobs.
The work atmosphere with the Siemens Windpower and Siemens Real Estate representatives is very positive and trusting. A construction project like this is definitely very complex, since this is to be the world’s biggest and most modern production site for 7 megawatt offshore wind turbines. In addition, the logistic aspects need to be established with the help of NPorts and a supplier structure needs to be built up in cooperation with Siemens, for which the necessary sites and areas need to be provided. At berth no. 9, a ro-ro ramp is being built for Offshore Terminal II, from where the turbines will be shipped. The whole terminal, whose construction had initially started for the client Strabag, will now be completed by NPorts according to the new client’s needs.
How did you mainly use the HUSUM Wind, where the AfW was represented at a Cuxhaven joint booth?
For the AfW, trade fairs like the HUSUM Wind are mainly used to establish business contacts, to network and to issue business tenders – since we are not only a location for the production of wind energy plants, but also for offshore logistics. It is important to always stay up to date with the market. In order to distinguish ourselves as an offshore logistics location, we shared this year’s booth with the businesses Otto Wulf, Cuxport and the Sea-Airport. In light of the settlement, we of course also focused on the suppliers, for whom we provided information about the location. The final choice will then of course be made by Siemens.
At the fair, we have experienced a very positive atmosphere. It was important to us to receive information about the industry and to see what relevant news the market offers, where niches for our location could develop. For example, the service and maintenance industry is also interesting to us, since the crew transfer vessels stationed on the island of Helgoland are regularly supplied by us. This is an important area of expertise on which we would like to expand. The service portfolio of the Offshore Safety Training Center has also developed well and is another piece of the service mosaic that the Offshore Base Cuxhaven provides.
So, as you can see, the offshore topic is gaining more and more significance in Cuxhaven. At the beginning of December, we are organising an industry meeting in Cuxhaven, where the project leader from Siemens will talk about the future plans for Cuxhaven first hand. The port industry and press will be invited to this event.