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2019 October 7

Lutz Birke: “Hamburg is interested in joint launching of logistics startups with Saint-Petersburg”

Cargo traffic between Big Port St. Petersburg and the German port of Hamburg is forecast to grow by 15% in 2019. In his interview with IAA PortNews, Lutz Birke, Chief of Office, Harbour & Innovation, Ministry for Economy, Traffic and Innovation, tells about the search for new logistic schemes including transportation by the Northern Sea Route, development of bunkering infrastructure for sustainable fuel, the Elbe river dredging, development prospects and plans on reduction of hazardous emissions from ships.

- Mr. Birke, is cargo traffic between the port of Hamburg and Big Port St. Petersburg growing?

- According to today’s data, cargo traffic between the Port of Hamburg and Big Port St. Petersburg has grown over 15% as compared with the same period of the previous year. We hope to maintain these growth rates till the end of 2019 and achieve the total volume of about 400,000 TEUs.

- The interest to participate in projects on cargo transportation by the Northern Sea Route was expressed at the Port of Hamburg reception in St. Petersburg. Could you please elaborate, what are those projects?

- Indeed, the Port of Haburg is interested in the Northern Sea Route development but I cannot say so far what projects the Port of Hamburg could be involved in. In October, Hamburg is to host a conference organized by Port of Hamburg Marketing. This will be among the topics of the conference.

- Your port’s interest in the development of logistics startups was also expressed at the reception. What is that about?

- The port of Hamburg is highly interested in launching new projects for logistics development. Everything related to the port and logistics is essential for the Port of Hamburg, and I believe for Saint-Petersburg as well. In Hamburg, we discuss the issue of so called ‘last mile logistics’, which is the final phase of the supply chain for timely delivery of cargo to the end user. Of course, we have numerous startups to search solutions here in Hamburg and we would like to know about startups in Saint-Petersburg. Perhaps, we could discuss some ideas for cooperation in the nearest future on new projects and on search for joint logistics solutions.

- The Elbe river dredging is underway. How does the project proceed and when is it to be completed?

- The deepening and widening works on the Elbe river kicked off about a month ago and they are going on as scheduled. A considerable progress will be seen in the second quarter of 2020 with the completion of the project scheduled for 2021.

- What are the development plans of the Port of Hamburg?  

- We are set to expand the effective area of the port and expect the project concept to be developed by the end of the year. We also plan to develop towards a more efficient, innovative and intellectual utilization of our port infrastructure to become a so-called ‘smart port’. Actually, our port is not able to expand extensively due to adjacent residential areas. Therefore, we should focus on more reasonable use of facilities and deepening of digitalization (through startups I have mentioned earlier) for expansion of our throughput capacity and increase of cargo flows.

- Is there a plan to develop infrastructure for bunkering with environmentally friendly types of fuel, particularly with natural gas?

- As of today, there is no developed infrastructure for LNG bunkering in the port of Hamburg. However, it will be created in the future, regardless of the LNG demand. We will also pay attention to hydrogen fuel. It is a crucial issue for the Port of Hamburg in view of the fuel revolution and I am quite sure that the coming three-five years will see the creation of such infrastructure for both ships and the industry. Hamburg is not just a point of cargo transshipment. It is an enormous industrial area of Germany and the entire Northern Europe. Therefore, to achieve the emission reduction goals we should use environmentally sustainable types of fuel.

- Which fuel is in the highest demand at the port of Hamburg today? Is there a plan to develop the onshore power supply system for reduction of emissions from ships?

- Diesel fuel is in the highest demand today. According to EU regulations, the port should reduce emissions and we discuss it with other ports of the North Sea and the European Union.

As for onshore power supply system at the port of Hamburg, electricity is only offered to cruise ships from an LNG power barge. We hope that this autumn the municipal authorities will make a decision on investing EUR 35 billion in expansion of the onshore power supply system throughout the port to cover both cruise ships and container carriers. We have set ourselves a task to expand the network for electricity supply to 11 berths accommodating container carriers and 3 more berths accommodating cruise ships.

Interviewed by Vitaly Chernov