“The port is the port,” comments Gesa Witte – which pretty much sums it all up – the things she likes about her job, her colleagues and the importance of her place of work for the region, the city, her employer and herself.
The 38-year-old industrial engineer joined HHLA back in 2001, initially completing a trainee programme, which she quit after four months in order to take on a permanent position in terminal development at Burchardkai. She laughingly replies to the question of whether after 13 years she can be considered one of the most experienced employees on site:“No, not here at the port.” However, she would not have been made the team's deputy if she hadn’t already proven her knowledge and experience in many different areas.
And it is the broad scope of her position that Witte really loves about her job. “I liaise between operations, manufacturers, IT programming and the works council,” she says. All while trying to line up costs, schedules, technical possibilities and feasibility, employees’ expectations and legal framework – quite the challenge. “I’m responsible for planning the expansion of quayside capacity and also for selecting the tiles that will go into the new canteen,” she explains.
She loves the port, the technical aspects, the scale, the ships and, of course, the water. That things can get a bit rough and ready doesn’t bother her. She’s not thin-skinned; just the opposite. She likes the straightforward manner of the employees in the port where nobody puts on any airs – especially not at Burchardkai, the city’s oldest terminal. “The loyalty among the employees is strong, as are the traditions here,” she says. Many still take an early “half” break instead of a full lunch break.
Witte and her colleagues are currently dealing with the ongoing modernisation of the terminal – a process that will take a number of years. A lot of soil needs to be moved in order to construct the new block storage facility and the new tracks for the terminal’s rail station. New 2,400-tonne container gantry cranes with 74-metre jibs will also be integrated. Not to mention a slew of IT adjustments.
These are big jobs that Witte is excited about. Does she have any plans to move to another location? “No,” she states, “I want to stay at Burchardkai.” She intends to continue commuting every day from her home and well-tended garden in Stelle-Ashausen to CTB. She always feels particularly confident of her choice when she goes out to berth 8, directly opposite the sandy Övelgönner beach. She looks across and thinks, “HHLA is the perfect place to work.”