“This is a bitter day for all peace-loving people worldwide. We condemn the invasion of the independent nation Ukraine by Russian troops in the strongest possible terms. This is an act contrary to international law that destroys the security architecture that has been tried and tested in Europe for 30 years.
Our concern and sympathy goes to the people of Ukraine, who are now being drawn into a senseless war. We are particularly concerned about the 480 employees at our terminal in the port of Odessa. The last employees left the port this morning. Previously, they reliably handled two ships that were then able to leave the port. In order to effectively support our employees in this difficult situation, the HHLA Executive Board decided this morning to pay one monthly salary in advance. In this particular situation, our employees can thus stock up on the essential goods accordingly.
HHLA committed itself to Ukraine in the early 2000s, relying on the Helsinki Final Act and other post-Cold War security agreements in Europe. We have since invested about $170 million in the terminal in Odessa. This was also a contribution to securing peace and prosperity in Europe. We have been in close contact with the management in Odessa for days. We have set up a crisis team on site, which coordinates closely with Philip Sweens, Managing Director of HHLA International, here in Hamburg.
Currently, the situation is still confusing, which is why it is in our view still too early to say anything about the possible effects of sanctions or the consequences of war.
Fact is: the port of Odessa was closed this morning by the Ukrainian authorities. All HHLA employees have left the terminal. HHLA as a group is not endangered in its substance by the events in Odessa. Since 2014, trade with Russia has already fallen by a quarter as a result of the Russian occupation of Crimea and the subsequent sanctions imposed.
Martial law now prevails in Ukraine. We must therefore assume that Ukrainian HHLA employees will also be obliged to do military service. The fact that women and children now have to fear for the lives of their husbands and fathers is deeply affecting all HHLA employees. Ports are part of the critical infrastructure. They are essential for the supply. Therefore, we expect our employees to be able to continue their service on land at the terminal.
Our thoughts and solidarity in these hours are with the people of Ukraine and especially the people of Odessa. Against this background, I join the numerous appeals to the Russian President to immediately stop the attack on Ukraine and to withdraw Russian troops.
War has never been a means of resolving conflicts, and it should no longer be a means in the 21st century, bearing in mind the terrible experiences we had here in Europe with two world wars and millions of deaths.”