Association of Bremer Spediteure: “The German ports should examine as a whole where the port start-up costs could be reduced.” (Sabine Vielmo)
The Bremer Spediteure Association has no doubt about the efficiency of the German container terminals. Nevertheless, the board is concerned: Because the so-called western ports in Rotterdam and Antwerp are now gaining market share year after year. This is not only due to the failure to adapt the Outer Weser to the container ships and the deepening of the Elbe has taken far too long, according to the association in which the majority of the shipping industry from Bremen and the region is organized. Viewed individually, there are small things that urgently need to be changed in order to strengthen the competitiveness of the German terminals.
Some of the member companies have branches at the various port locations or work together with partners. For the shippers, it is not decisive which seaports they ship through, says Carsten Hellmers, from Alexander Global Logistics GmbH. Rather, it is precisely calculated how the goods can be transported from A to B in the cheapest way. For this, the costs for transports to and from the seaports, handling costs, the Terminal Handling Charges (THC) and possibly container stowing or unloading costs are decisive. “Many shipping companies charge a higher THC in Bremerhaven and Hamburg than in the western ports in order to compensate for the higher port start-up costs, especially in Hamburg.”
The shippers and forwarders also use Rotterdam and Antwerp for their business, but they know that it will have negative long-term effects for the location as a whole if their own ports cannot keep up with the competition. The Bremen freight forwarders are committed to the ports of Bremen and also to the port of Hamburg. Whenever possible, they dispatched the containers via these ports.
The German terminal operators have opportunities to become more attractive for customers, according to Robert Völkl, managing director of the association. It is a strategic mistake by the operator to see only the container liner shipping companies as customers. “The real customers are the shippers from industry and trade, the importers and freight forwarders. If many of these customers want to load and import via Bremerhaven, the shipping companies will increasingly call at Bremerhaven again. “
Become more attractive for shippers
“The German container terminals could become more attractive for shippers if the free storage times in export and import are slightly extended,” says chairman Oliver Oestreich (Lexzau, Scharbau GmbH). “For import containers, high storage fees are already charged after the third day, even if ships arrive before the weekend; it is only five days for export. ”
Another disadvantage of the German ports is that the importers always have to pay the resulting import sales tax in a liquidity-effective manner, according to Oestreich. “Although the deadline for payment has been extended to around 70 days, but if the importers import their imports via the western ports, you can immediately offset the import sales tax as part of their advance sales tax returns.”
In Hamburg there are currently also problems at the container terminals: Due to a lack of space, the delivery of export containers is limited to a period of 72 and sometimes just 48 hours before the ship arrives, says Sven E. Schoon (ETS Transport & Logistics GmbH). “No containers may be delivered beforehand.” This causes huge problems and additional costs for the shippers and forwarders because the containers have to be temporarily stored at the gates of Hamburg. Such restrictions are driving customers into competing ports. The reason for the lack of space are delayed arrivals of large container ships, which quickly lead to unwanted overlaps in the handling processes and the port is programmed to overflow with containers.
“The German ports as a whole should examine where the port call costs could be reduced,” says Völkl. “If the German container ports become more attractive for the shippers and importers, they will also become more interesting for the shipping companies.” It could not be that customs in Bremerhaven order the inspection of a container in the container inspection system, which costs around 100 euros was connected, but in agreement with the shipping companies, the importers would be charged around 300 euros. An importer who imports a lot of containers from South America and whose containers are often x-rayed will simply import via other ports at lower costs.
The Bremer Spediteure Association hopes that the talks between the terminal operators HHLA from Hamburg and the Bremer BLG Logistics Group, which handles container handling via Eurogate, will show how Bremerhaven and Hamburg can become more competitive again. The two market-leading terminal operators announced at the end of May that they would exchange ideas about the possibilities of closer cooperation in the container business in the German Bight. Eurokai from Hamburg is also involved in the talks, alongside BLG shareholders in Eurogate.
Down to business
Declining market share
Bremerhaven In 2012 it still had a market share of 17.2 percent compared to Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg and Wilhelmshaven. In 2019 it was just under twelve percent. For the first time in 2019, Rotterdam handled as many standard containers as Hamburg, the ports of Bremen and Wilhelmshaven combined.