IT jobs keep the port running smoothly
Patrick Jandt, Head of IT at the German Eurogate Group
© H.S.H./Frank Kremser

IT jobs keep the port running smoothly

Eurogate covers the entire IT spectrum in-house with 90 employees.

“You can see the work of IT at the port for yourself,” says Patrick Jandt, Head of IT at the German Eurogate Group, pointing out of his office window that looks out over the Hamburg terminal. “I notice when processes become smoother and more efficient thanks to our IT developments. Conversely, if I hear trucks beeping outside my window, I know even before my first call that our IT department needs to jump straight into action.” It is this exciting working environment combined with ever increasing requirements placed on IT that has fascinated Jandt at Eurogate for almost 23 years.

With his team comprising 90 employees, including almost 30 developers, he covers the entire spectrum of IT. There are a further 20 near-shore developers who work in Europe or neighbouring countries. IT is therefore well represented as a professional field at Eurogate. Indeed, the terminal operator consciously decided to handle most software development within the company as well as the IT infrastructure and architecture. The latter is hugely important, as Eurogate – being a major hub for containers at the Port of Hamburg – is considered critical infrastructure and is therefore required by law to take special security measures.

There are compelling reasons to handle software development internally, too. “There is hardly any standard software on the market that is tailored to our needs as a terminal operator with all our services,” explains Jandt. “The number of relevant IT technology companies is falling, increasing the risk of becoming dependent and replaceable.” In addition, he points out that software is becoming increasingly expensive as a result of the trend of leasing software.

When Jandt looks back on his time at the port, he can conclude that the importance of IT professions has changed: “IT has developed from a cost driver that provides hardware and infrastructure into an area that generates added value for the company. With our solutions, we directly contribute to enabling new business or entire new fields of business.”

According to Jandt, one of the key functions of the IT team is to get the most out of expensive equipment, like van carriers and gantry cranes that are operated around the clock, and to optimise processes. For instance, one of his project teams is currently working on using digitalisation to simplify proceedings at the gate for the truckers. With around 3,000 to 3,500 containers moving through the Hamburg Eurogate terminal alone every day, the gate is a real bottleneck.

“Using a digital trucker card, integrated registration and automated check-in via an OCR system, we want to keep improving the flow of traffic,” Jandt explains. However, his IT team doesn’t just work at the terminals of the German seaports of Hamburg, Bremerhaven and Wilhelmshaven.

Experiencing the go-live of international terminals

The expertise of the IT team is also sought after abroad. Jandt is always involved whenever a Eurogate terminal outside Germany is developed or refurbished. Following Tangier in Morocco, he is overseeing the terminal currently under construction in Damietta, Egypt, with a staff of 20 from the IT department. He was there for the first time five years ago when the terminal project was just beginning. Jandt summarises: “When it comes to IT, we act as general contractor. We have to hand over this area in turnkey condition – from the cabling to the software.” Experiencing the go-live first-hand is a special highlight for all involved. “After preparing the groundwork for two to three years, we can finally see what we have implemented at the site.” Jandt adds: “The go-live lasts around three to four weeks. It’s hard work until everything works as it should. But once commissioning is successfully completed, you have grown together with the staff on the ground and they wave to you from their vehicles each morning.”

The fascinating opportunity of being based in Germany while working abroad is attractive to young employees in particular. Eurogate is extremely committed to training and dual studies and has recently increased its number of vacancies from six to ten. “We choose to hold our interviews on site at the port, showing potential employees the direct link to terminal operations,” Jandt says. Jandt still sees plenty of potential for improvement in the number of women employed in IT professions. The share of women at Eurogate has been stable for seven years at 15 percent, which is above the average in the conventional IT sector (5 percent).

The number of people employed in the IT department will continue to grow in the coming years, Jandt is sure. After all, the higher the degree of automation at the terminals, the more important IT and IT specialists become. There is more and more focus on cloudification and cyber security. In addition, Jandt believes new professional fields will emerge as a consequence of generative AI, neural networks and large language models. Data scientists and data analysts are in demand, he says. For Jandt, it’s important to stay on the ball: “We are investing in these technologies and in staff expertise. This is because networking towards closed, autonomous systems will continue to take centre stage.”

More articles from the magazine