The world political situation is creating uncertainties in global supply chains. These also affect the Port of Hamburg. Does this situation influence the path to a climate-neutral port?
Even now, the world political situation is speeding up specific developments. Among other factors, the need to free ourselves from energy policy dependence on Russia is causing a distinct boost in the tempo for expanding alternative energies. In the short term, many companies in the Port of Hamburg are suffering immensely from higher energy prices. That should not be under-estimated. In the medium term, however, I assume that especially against the background of current developments, our strategy of promoting the build-up of a self-supporting green hydrogen sector at an early stage will pay off.
Where does the Port of Hamburg stand today in the effort to become a climate-neutral port?
Hamburg has already achieved a great deal. For a start, we are the European leader for shore-based power and will soon have tangible connections at all cruise terminals and all essential containership berths. Secondly, Hamburg has systematically expanded its role as Europe’s leading rail port. More than half of all containers bound for the hinterland are transported by rail. Compared to road transport, that saves enormous quantities of CO2. Thirdly, companies themselves are very active, understanding climate protection as an opportunity for acquiring new customers. One fine example is HHLA, which since 2019 has been operating the world’s first container terminal certified as CO2-neutral. Yet it is clear that much remains to be done. That applies both to the port’s traditional cargo handling and logistic activities, and to industry. Our goal there is clear: We see decarbonization as an opportunity and wish to create the conditions for new, climate-compatible growth in the port.
You recently described the port as practice-oriented playing field that must change and function more powerfully as a driver of innovation. Could you explain that in a little more detail?
The port has always been changing and will continue to do so. Even now, we are once again experiencing a process with several upheavals. Central to these are the topics of digitalization, decarbonization and energy. We are trying to support companies based here with the change, and to bring in new, innovative players. This is happening through pilot projects and new settlement of companies and research facilities. With pilot projects, we make it clear that the port is progressing, and introducing new technologies. Just two examples are support for a pilot project with emission-free trucks, and harnessing technologies from quantum computing for optimizing traffic flows.
Creation of a digital testbed in the Port of Hamburg should achieve an additional quantum leap in digital transparency. This will concentrate on combining existing digital networks for public transport and infrastructure management with those of private enterprise logistics into a network of networks. Under its DigiTest funding programme, the BMDV – Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure – is contributing 15 million euros.
To boost added value in the port and its immediate environment, we are primarily concentrating on attracting companies and institutions with a high proportion of research & development. To achieve successful application of new technologies, here we see it as the city-state’s duty to make appropriate space and a suitable environment available to such players. Two sites on which this will be increasingly occurring are the Am Radeland innovation park in Harburg and the port quarter on Grasbrook. Technology companies linked to the port are to be systematically settled there.
Do you sometimes feel that companies are lacking guts?
We cannot accuse companies of lacking courage. In view of present crises and the current volatility of the world economy, to invest in new technologies, launch a start-up or build up a new site requires serious willingness to take risks. As the Senate, we must therefore create the conditions so that companies are willing to carry these. This means that we must make available superb infrastructure, invest in initial and in-service training, strengthen research & development, network the worlds of commerce and science, and set the course for such major projects as the Elbe fairway adjustment, the Köhlbrand crossing and redevelopment of the former Moorburg power station site.
The Port of Hamburg is one of Europe’s largest single integral industrial zones. Production and logistics services there require an immense amount of energy. Over the coming years, where is this to come from?
Fossil energy’s share is still comparatively high. Yet in the next few years, change will occur increasingly fast. To an ever-growing extent, the port will be supplied with energy from renewable sources. We shall be further expanding energy exploitation in areas of the port itself – with wind power and photovoltaics. Yet it is obvious that this will only cover a comparatively small part of energy needs. In addition, energy – especially from wind power – will fulfil an ever-growing role. Here we profit from our proximity to the large onshore and offshore wind parks on the coast. In addition, however, we shall still have to import other sources of energy. Unlike today, this will be less and less in the form of coal and oil/gas, but hydrogen derivatives by ship or pipeline. We are currently creating the conditions for this.
We welcome altogether
the Fit for 55 package
of the European
Can a port alone manage that? Doesn’t Hamburg actually need more support from Federal government?
We in Hamburg, especially, are convinced of the merits of the Federal system, and not just for upholding tradition. For a start, ports are a matter for the Federal state concerned and that’s quite right. In many cases, namely, we can react more flexibly to developments, and network and coordinate policy for the port with economic policy for the citystate generally, but also with transport, environmental and research policies. In the process, we basically we must ensure acceptable financing of the port. Yet the Port of Hamburg is indisputably of tremendous supra-regional importance and playing a crucial role for German’s national economy. A glance at a few figures makes that obvious. While the port generates annual added value for the Metropolitan Region – extending well beyond the state borders – of about 12.4 billion euros, the figure for the whole of Germany is 50.5 billion euros. In the whole of Germany, it secures about 600,000 port-related jobs. Only about eleven percent of those are located in Hamburg. The port naturally also performs a central function for German imports and exports. This can be discerned from the fact that onethird of all container trains and around 13 percent of all freight traffic on the German rail network are bound for the Port of Hamburg or originate there. If one calls to mind this significance and is also aware of the size of future investments – in the Köhlbrand tunnel or shore-based power, for example – then it is clear that support from the Federal government is absolutely appropriate.
So far, we are seeing shore-based power mainly for cruise ships. Would European or even worldwide cooperation between ports do more to achieve the aim than solo efforts?
By using shore-based power during a vessel’s laytime in port, we are certainly reducing its CO2 emissions, but also atmospheric pollutants. Especially in Hamburg, with the port in the city centre, this is of special importance. We therefore took the first shore power unit into service at the Altona cruise terminal way back in 2016, and are currently building new shorebased power facilities at Steinwerder and HafenCity cruise terminals. We are going even further, however, by extending shore-based power supply to containerships. We shall be making this available in future at the four major container terminals. We are receiving financial support for this from the Federal government, which will bear around 50 percent of investment costs. Shipping is subject to international regulations. A purely ‘island solution’ for Hamburg is not in our interest and will not contribute to widespread use of alternative energy supply systems. Instead, we need a level playing field in Europe. For this, uniform rules are required. No disadvantages should arise for ports that have already applied measures or are now doing so, while others are less ambitious in pursuing climate protection. We therefore generally welcome the European Commission’s Fit-for-55 package and the related obligation to use shore-based power. We are cooperating closely as partners with Europe’s major ports. For instance, we are exchanging knowhow with the port and the city administration in Rotterdam, while intensifying contacts with Antwerp, and Montreal too. Since we are acting internationally, we can profit from the experience of colleagues in the Port of Los Angeles, and are also keeping an eye on Asian ports.
Green hydrogen belongs in your opinion to the energy mix for the future. How far then are preparations for a hydrogen hub in Hamburg flourishing?
We already set the political framework with the North German Hydrogen Strategy in 2019, and are now pursuing the common vision of building up a self-sufficient green hydrogen sector by 2035. To really set the build-up of a green hydrogen sector in motion, last year we extended our Renewable Energy Hamburg Cluster with the hydrogen sector. For many people, the incipient Port of Hamburg project involving the scalable 100 MW Electrolyzer symbolizes the future green hydrogen sector. This is related to further schemes: HHWIN, or creation of HHWIN – a Hamburg Hydrogen Industry Network, applications in metallurgy, the port industry and aviation. With 30 percent of the public funding, Hamburg will make a major contribution to these pioneering projects that are currently running as part of a comprehensive EU program of European ‘matchmaking’ with other projects. An additional lighthouse project is the innovation/technology centre ‘Hydrogen technologies for mobility applications’, or ITZ Nord, that is planned for Hamburg, Bremen and Stade, and will be backed by the Federal government – the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure – with funds of up to 70 million euros. With the hydrogen import strategy published in March, my ministry has laid a further milestone towards meeting the needs of users on the spot with imports, as well as addressing national and European requirements as a ‘Green Hydrogen Hub Europe’ and transit centre. In addition, we shall be relying more on international alliances with regions whence hydrogen or its derivatives can be imported into Germany.
Companies’ own initiatives could also play an important part. Are you aware of any in the Port of Hamburg that are actively working on the energy mix?
Many companies are extremely active here. More and more logistics undertakings are pursuing a decarbonization strategy to attract clients wishing to gain customers that wish to offer end-consumers products with a CO2-neutral supply chain. I have already mentioned CTA as the first certified climate- neutral container handling facility. The company relies there on a combination of electrification so as to use green power, and CO2 compensation for the remaining emissions. Wherever this is technically and commercially feasible, companies are also producing power themselves with photovoltaics and to a substantial extent, also with wind power. For instance, some of Hamburg’s largest and most powerful wind power units stand in the port, directly supplying energy to industrial and cargo-handling companies We are currently examining to what extent additional wind energy units can be built in the port, without competing with port usage; new Federal legislation such as the ‘wind on land’ law will also play an import part here.
Is there any support in political circles in Hamburg for such initiatives?
The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg has among other things very strongly supported the erection within the port of many wind power units. The aim is for the output of existing wind parks to be doubled in the next few years. In what is known as sectoral coupling, increased use of green power in industrial companies is being supported with funding programs by the city.
Hamburg is continuing to support the establishment of a self-supporting hydrogen sector. Here the eight Hamburg projects forming part of the EU’s IPCEI – ‘Important Projects of Common European Interest“ program need to be mentioned. The city is supporting these with 223 million euros of state funding. Federal government will contribute a further 520 million euros. Altogether, we are speaking here of a total investment of around two billion euros for projects predominantly located in the port. With this, we are laying an additional, essential foundation stone for the transformation to a future hydrogen sector.
The port development plan will shortly be completed. Can you reveal for us what role conversion to a climate-neutral port will play?
It is clear even now that the aims of climate protection and sustainability will be a central leitmotiv of the new port development plan. Anything else would be to deny reality. Yet we are not attempting simply to pursue a trend with the plan. Instead, we are examining how we can exploit the opportunities arising from energy transition and the transformation of the climate for the port. We don’t wish simply to react to the problems of our times, but to look ahead and held shape the future. The topic of hydrogen offers one good example. The port contains strong companies in the oil industry and is still an important hub for handling coal. By going for hydrogen as an energy source energetically and at an early stage, we are supporting transformation of these sectors to ecological sustainability. The aim is not just to secure existing companies and jobs, but also to create fresh growth potential