Peter Pickhuben's page
Wise old bird Peter Pickhuben is always in the know about what goes on in Germany’s largest universal port. Where can you find the best fish rolls? How can you personally join a containership for a voyage? What training opportunities does the port offer? On this page frequent flyer Peter Pickhuben provides many an insider tip and answers your FAQs.
Peter‘s Review: Where the Elbphilharmonie is now13.01.1709:55On 11th and 12th January 2017 it was finally time. The Elbphilharmonie, the new Hamburg landmark, finally opened its doors. But what was before that at this place? My grandfather told me an exciting story. On the western tip of the old Dalmannkai, a huge store house, the so called „Kaispeicher A” was built before World War I. It was the largest and most modern storage in the Port of Hamburg, looking like a church because of its tower. On top of the tower was a real eye-catcher: a time ball – the clock of the harbour. In port cities accurate timekeeping always played an important role for navigation and for the exact determination of the longitude at sea. Every day at exactly twelve o'clock, the time-ball fell down three meters, and the sailors could adjust their own clocks. A real spectacle. It says a lot about Hamburg, the supposedly most British city of Germany, that the ball did not move at twelve o'clock Central European Time, but Greenwich Mean Time.
Peter’s Top Tipp: Fast Track to Capitan28.12.1611:29Did you ever wanted to know how it feels to steer a 50.000 GT container ship on the river Elbe? In the International Maritime Museum in the Hamburg Speicherstadt (Warehouse District) you can take over the bridge of the “Tokyo Express”, a 300 metre-long containership. How does it work? In the ship simulator! From Stade up the Elbe, navigating pilotage waters or manoeuvring the ship into the ports of Hamburg, Los Angeles or Singapore right up to the quay wall. It soon becomes very clear what ships’ captains, pilots and tugs have to do every day. Hold course, perform avoidance manoeuvres, cope with oncoming traffic, even in fog or heavy seas are just a few of the challenges to be mastered. If you think that powerfully spinning the wheel is what is needed, you would be very wrong. The course and speed are set by the captain with only one hand on the joystick. Have a try, the museum crew is on the lookout for you.
To Peter’s surprise: The oldest Christmas Greetings come from North Germany29.11.1609:50Now who would have thought that? The oldest radio programme in the world still running really did originate here in North Germany. On 24 December 1953, the very first ‘Gruß von Bord’ or ‘Shipboard Greetings’ was broadcast on the coastal Norddeich Radio station. Ever since then, family members and friends have been able to send Xmas greetings on Christmas Eve to their loved ones at sea, over the airwaves. For a long time this broadcast was often the only opportunity for seafarers to hear the familiar voices of their wife, girlfriend or children at Christmas – short-wave radio made it possible. Even today, in the age of the mobile and Internet, this cult programme is still of great significance for seafarers and their families. At the end of 1998, Norddeich Radio made its last Christmas greetings broadcast throughout the world. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Today the broadcast goes out on 24 December at 8.05pm on NDR 90.3 und NDR Info. The seafarers use the Livestream in the Internet or read email greetings from their family there. I too wish all those at sea throughout the world a happy holiday season.
Peter updates: Who is this Max actually?21.11.1612:27PanMax, SuezMax, NOK Max! Who actually is this Max? It might really be better to ask: What is Max? Because in this case, these three letters are the short form for ‘maximum‘, indicating the maximum ship size for passing through a canal, namely the Panama , Suez or Kiel Canal, with NOK being the abbreviation of the original German ‘Nord-Ostsee-Kanal’ or ‘North Sea-Baltic Canal’.
Why am I going into all this? Well, there’s a series of four Kiel-Canal-Max newbuildings. This autumn the first one, the ‘Delphis Bothnia’ has gone into service. This containership is setting really new standards: With a length of 177.56 m, a width of 30.50 m and a capacity of over 1,900 TEU, she is the biggest feedership of all, specially designed for operating in the Baltic.
In contrast to the Panama Canal, for example, with the Kiel Canal it is much less a question of the lock measurements being the limiting factor, but rather the draft with a maximum of 9.50 m. Depending on the length and width of a ship, the permitted limit is reduced proportionally. This means, for example, that a freighter with a length of 160 m and a width of 27 m must be unloaded to achieve a draft of 9.50 m. Because of it larger dimensions, the Delphis Bothnia is only permitted a draft of 8.80 m during passage on the Kiel Canal. This means that she can pass through the canal when not fully loaded.
Despite incurring Canal fees and the obligatory pilot, the some eight-hour voyage through the Kiel Canal is worth it. On average the shipping companies save a good 250 sea miles for the voyage between the North Sea and Baltic in comparison to the Skagen route. This saves time and bunker. So, then it is not surprising that the Kiel Canal is the busiest man-made shipping canal in the world. Topping this you can add some 14,000 pleasure craft that use the canal annually.
You will find more information on the MS ‘Delphis Bothnia’ in our databank.
Big surprise for Peter: XXL move - new parking places for HHLA gantry cranes07.10.1616:46Recently I was amazed by a very special move in the Port of Hamburg. HHLA ‘re-parked’ two 600-ton gantry cranes. From HHLA Container Terminal Tollerort (CTT) to O’Swaldkai. Safe transportation was carried out using a special pontoon belonging to Schleif, heavy-lift haulage contractors. Re-locating each crane took one hour. Installation in the new position was then carried out smoothly. The two cranes had to be moved as CTT now handles especially large containerships and the cranes were not big enough, they can now be used to full advantage at O’Swaldkai.
Once upon a time .... Historic cranes for the new ‘Elphi’05.10.1616:48Just as you might expect, I was the first to spot them as usual. Recently, as I circled over Hamburg’s newest landmark, the Elbphilharmonie - or as we say the ‘Elphi,’ I discovered them. At last, the three historic listed semi-gantry cranes have returned to their original site, on the south side of the Elbphilharmonie. As I recall, up to the beginning of the 1990s these cranes were used to move coffee and cocoa sacks from the ships into quay warehouse A, which today forms the base of the Elphi. The cranes have been renovated and overhauled over the last few years by the Hamburg Maritime Foundation together with the Hamburg ‘Jobs for Youth’ project. They themselves organised and carried out the renovation in front of the fifties warehouse. Great stuff, and thanks to all who made it possible. Now I have a fantastic new vantage point.
Peter updates: Faster to the Baltic - across the new Kattwyk bridge04.10.1611:57Just the other day I made a short inspection flight over Kattwyk Island. And what did I see? Well, for all those who cannot fly like me, the Hamburg Port Authority is building a new Kattwyk bridge. The combined road-rail bridge has crossed the Süderelbe between Kattwyk Island and Moorburg since 1973. The newbuild will increase capacity in the western section of the port also relieving eastbound traffic. In November 2015 the gap was filled in the new road bridge in Kattwykstraße. In spring 2016 HPA began building the main structure, the new rail lift-bridge. As from 2017 the steel structure, the drive technology and finally the track construction will follow. The new bridge should be open for traffic in 2020.
This will also have an immediate positive effect on freight goods transport to and from the Baltic Sea region. My diagram shows how the present route, via Harburg and Maschen, will be shortened by the new rail bridge at Kattwyk. HPA estimates around one hour will be saved in comparison to the old route. Maybe then I’ll let the train take the strain!
Big surprise for Peter: Warehouse robots in action02.10.1612:01It doesn’t seem quite natural to me: Transport robots shifting goods or whole bins around a giant logistics centre just to the place where they are needed. What sounds like science fiction to me is everyday reality at Amazon in the USA, Poland and, since the beginning of the year, in the UK too. At least that is what I’ve heard from seagulls passing through.
In these giant logistics centres robotic systems assist workers with picking goods. The operators stand at ergonomic workstations and let robots bring the toys, books and electrical appliances needing to be packed. This saves time and even allows for a 50 percent greater use of the storage space. The transport robots move at 5.5 kmh and can lift up to 340 kilos. One day the online trader will install robotic arms capable of independently unpacking and packing stock. But, we are definitely not so far down the line that they can completely replace real people. With the help of 3D cameras they have to learn to see spatially and to understand what a cuddly toy is made of, or a book consists of, to be able to pick it up properly.
But just to make one thing clear, there’s no way I’m going to put up with a robot seagull!
Peter updates: It’s ‘weigh in’ time for Containers30.09.1612:06Have you already seen awful pictures of damaged or lost containers on the high seas? Mostly as a result of a bad storm. Frequently wrong weight data in the cargo documents is the cause of such accidents because, for example, the weight of the packaging material, pallets or the empty container were not added to the cargo weight. This means that the ship’s stowage experts have no reliable data for their planning.
Since 1 July this year there’s a real change. A new international directive has come into force, calling for data on the VGM - Verified Gross Mass before a container is allowed to be loaded on a seagoing vessel. The shipper is made responsible for ensuring the correct weight of the packed container. If there is a difference between the weight given in the cargo documents and the actual weight, the container can’t be loaded. This directive will increase safety and transport quality in the supply chain.
Big surprise for Peter: Mega-long freight trains in Port of Hamburg29.09.1611:58My colleagues had already told me about it, but now I’ve seen it with my own eyes. The extra-ultra-mega-long freight train from Hamburg to Denmark. Since the end of last year these XXL freight trains have been running a regular service between Maschen and Padborg on the Danish side of the border and right into the Port of Hamburg at Hohe Schaar. These giant trains are 835 metres long – that’s like eight football pitches lined up end to end. Comparing that to the normal maximum permitted length of 740 metres, they can each transport up to ten railcars and 15 containers more. You can call that an efficient use of resources.
Connecting the Port of Hamburg to the pioneering route between Maschen and Padborg is an important step towards mastering the growth in rail freight traffic. These extra-long trains first came into use between Maschen and Denmark at the end of 2012. A feasibility study on 1,500-metre-long trains has already been under way for some time. The top rail people have a clear vision - the mega-liner on rails. And that’s mega-good, if you ask me!
Peter updates: Safety check every 30 seconds28.09.1616:24Train drivers need fast reaction time – but then you already know that. They are responsible for the safety of their train. Throughout the whole journey they have to be on their toes to react in a split second to any emergency. Making sure that the driver is healthy, awake and ready to react is tested by the dead man’s device. During the journey the driver keeps a pedal or key pressed down. Every 30 seconds he has to release the pressure to show the device that he can react. If he doesn’t, then the system first warns him visually, then after a few seconds with a sound signal: If he still doesn’t react, the emergency brake stops the train. That would be good for me too, when I’m sailing through the air half asleep.
Once upon a time… Ships and Locomotives – A Dream Team for 150 Years10.09.1616:53Even if I am a flying ace, secretly I’m not just in love with ships, but locomotives too. Since as long ago as 1866, ships and locomotives have been a dream team in the Port of Hamburg. Way back then, the first steam train was handled at the newly opened Sandthorquai – where HafenCity’s star shines today. It was the first multi-modal wharf in Hamburg.
The railcars were able to come so close to the quay wall that the cargo was transhipped directly from the ship into the railcars and vice versa. From Sandthorquai the trains ran via the Hamburg rail network directly to Kiel, Berlin and Lübeck. Not just that, via Harburg there was the rail connection to Hanover, too.
So, all aboard! Close the doors! And off we go!