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HHLA opens ‘Gateway to the Future’ in port

Chairwoman of HHLA’s Executive Board, Angela Titzrath, responds to questions on intelligent mobility solutions and the relevance of the Port of Hamburg.


Frau Titzrath, can you help us to solve an apparent contradiction?

Titzrath: Gladly. Which contradiction then?


Why is the development of the Port of Hamburg described as ‘stagnating’ and ‘has lost contact to the competition’, even though HHLA, as the biggest company in the port, is very successful?

Titzrath: The long legal dispute about the Elbe fairway adjustment has damaged the port in general. Linked to this, there is less acceptance for the Port in the city, in spite of it safeguarding some 160,000 jobs and generating an annual added value of in excess of 600 million euros. Add to this, that the port has not profited from growth in the container business as have other ports in the North Range. In any event, counting boxes is a purely quantitative view that may be suitable for marketing purposes, but says very little about the quality of a port. The Port of Hamburg is, just as before, one of the most advanced, high performance ports, with HHLA having a weighty share in it.


The Elbe navigable channel is now being deepened and widened. What does this mean for the future of the Port of Hamburg?

Titzrath: Stable navigable accessibility is an absolute precondition for the port to assert its position in competition among the European seaports, and then to strengthen it. We assume that the fairway adjustment will lead to a moderate growth in quantities handled. The widening and deepening of the Elbe navigable channel is however only one of a number of essential preconditions for the successful future of the port. Over and above that further investments are needed in the port and transport infrastructure.



How realistic is asking for more money for the port when, in the meantime, a widely held view exists that Hamburg has to be more than a port and a trading centre?

Titzrath: This view is not exactly new. As early as 1983, the then First Mayor, Klaus von Dohnanyi pointed out that the future of Hamburg and the port cannot only lie on the water, but more strongly on land. I share this view. The port is well suited as a testbed for digital innovation. However, we do have to take one thing into account: The Port of Hamburg is not only of local relevance. It is of systemic importance to Germany as an industrial nation, since a quarter of all German foreign trade is cleared through the port.


Just how important the topic of ‘the future’ is for HHLA, can be seen in the marketing claim ‘Gateway to the Future’. What does this really mean for you?

Titzrath: It is our strategic aim to strengthen HHLA’s creative power and sustainability. Together with our customers, we want to develop the logistics and digital hubs along the transport flows of the future. We are not thinking in terms of predetermined pathways, but free from any bias: whether on water, rail, road, glass-fibre or something completely different such as Hyperloop technology - Our customers aims and requirements will determine our action.


It sounds as if HHLA is already preparing for the post-container era.

Titzrath: The container will continue to play an important role in the transport of goods. With 3D printing and drone technology, additional potential is opening up for manufacturing products and then shipping them more efficiently than in the customary way by container.

Two years ago you announced that HHLA would be the motor for digital change in the port. How well is this motor performing in the meantime?

Titzrath: Our motor is running at a respectable number of revs. In drone technology, we are developing our own solutions, and using the expertise of a Hamburg start-up that we also hold a stake in. We are cooperating with truck manufacturer MAN in an intuitive mobility project. Our vocational trainees are involved with 3D printing and digital welding. We are also active in the Digital Hub initiated by the Hamburg Senate. In premises belonging to HHLA Real Estate, in the historic Speicherstadt, this is putting horse-power on the road.


HHLA’s announcement of founding a joint venture with the US based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has received international attention. Some people think that it was only a nice PR gag. Will containers soon be travelling close to the speed of sound?

Titzrath: Why not? When, in December 1835, the first train ran between Nuremberg and Fürth, no one could have imagined that trains would one day reach speeds above 200 kilometres per hour. Our joint-venture partner HTT has already successfully tested the first components for transporting people. Now it’s a question of transferring the technology to freight transport. At a HHLA container terminal in the Port of Hamburg, together we want to develop a type of terminus, where sea containers can be sent into, or emerge from, a tube system. That HTT should choose Hamburg as a test bed, demonstrates once again how attractive the city and port are for innovation.


What is HHLA’s intention with this joint venture in the near future?

Titzrath: Intelligent mobility solutions, such as Hyperloop technology, can make a significant contribution to relieving transport infrastructure around the port. This in turn would mean reducing air pollution. Our aim is to develop this technology.


The port is recognized as the main cause of excessive air pollution in Hamburg. What can a company like HHLA do for climate protection?

Titzrath: Firstly, I share the view of First Mayor, Peter Tschentscher that climate policy must not be hostile to growth. Bans, rules and regulations are unproductive. Industry is part of the climate protection solution. For many years, as part of its sustainability business model, HHLA has been making great efforts that have also been recognized by the independent German sustainability council. Our terminal in Altenwerder was the first worldwide to be certified as a ‘zero emissions’ terminal. The services offered by our rail subsidiary Metrans are geared towards shifting more freight traffic from road to rail.