The future of the German ports

National concept for the sea and river ports 2015 has been published

On 20 January 2016, the German federal cabinet has released the new national port concept 2015. With it, the federal government commits to strengthen the competitiveness of the German ports and to dissolve bottlenecks in the hinterland and sea connections.

The federal government and also the states are responsible for the implementation of the described measures. In specific areas, the industry is to be responsible as well. The implementation of 155 separate measures is described in the 132 pages alongside general statements of the new port concept’s goals. These include the targeted expansion of port infrastructure, measures for training and employment as well as better coordination of port politics between EU, federal government and the states.

For the north German ports, there are positive signals regarding the deepening of the navigation channels Ems, Weser and Elbe. However, the implementation is still largely dependent on the outcome of corresponding judicial decisions. The measures are meant to significantly improve the accessibility of the north German seaports. In addition, the federal government aims to further increase the ports’ competitiveness through the expansion of hinterland connections and also considers increasing financial support of the ports for the provision of efficient handling capacities in the offshore wind energy sector. However, the port concept states that it is the duty of the federal states to comprehensibly and transparently prove a tangible demand for funding in this regard. At the same time, the federal government cautions against a port’s one-sided orientation towards offshore wind energy. The expansion plans should be adapted to ensure a continuous utilisation of the terminals, not only depending on offshore projects.

The resolution of the national port concept was met with a divided response. On the day of publication, several associations already issued corresponding statements. The federal association of German Inland Shipping (Bundesverband der Deutschen Binnenschifffahrt e.V./BDB) is criticising the fact that the concerns of the German inland waterway ports are not adequately addressed in the port concept. In their statement, the BDB mentions that, considering the fact that the hinterland transports of the ports of Zeebrugge, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam account for a large portion of the German cargo volumes in the Rhine river valley, a nearly complete focus on the north German seaports alone is incomprehensible.

Overall, however, the national port concept’s resolution was positively received and a rapid implementation of the listed measures was requested. The Central Association of German Sea Ports (Zentralverband Deutscher Seehäfen e.V./ZDS) announced that in an overall view, the existing concept prepares the way for successful port politics in the coming years.


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