Expectations for the maritime industry’s largest industry meeting are high – as are the financial demands. Federal Chancellors and Vice Chancellors came – but did not bring with them what was hoped for.
According to Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the national port strategy should take concrete shape in the coming months. “It is important to me that it is decided by the cabinet this year,” said the SPD politician at the National Maritime Conference (NMK) in Bremen. “The times when ports, shipping and the maritime economy were noticed but not taken seriously are over.”
In order for the new strategy to be successful, a European port policy is needed to ensure fair competition and greater investments in the future of the ports – from shipping companies, logistics companies and the state. “The federal government is clearly committed to its share of responsibility for high-performance and future-proof ports with the necessary port infrastructure,” said Scholz. “I know that from the states’ point of view, this also includes an increase in financial resources. I know it.” The Chancellor did not make any concrete assurances.
“Turning of times” called for
The coastal countries and the port industry had called for a “turnaround” in the financing of seaports. Around 400 million euros a year are needed for the infrastructure in the ports alone, which falls under the responsibility of the federal states. The claim is justified by increased costs. These have increased approximately tenfold since 2005. Since then, the federal government has paid 38.3 million euros annually to the states.
“I don’t think you could build a larger daycare center or school for that today. That’s definitely not enough for a national port strategy,” criticized Bremen’s mayor Andreas Bovenschulte (SPD). It is remarkable what resources are made available for ports in other countries – be it in Rotterdam, Antwerp, Gdansk or Gothenburg. “We are certainly well advised to adapt the infrastructure of our ports in Germany with the same consistency and, if possible, at the same pace.”
Habeck hopes for the wind industry
The federal government did not come with empty hands, “but with full arms,” emphasized Economics Minister Robert Habeck. His ministry could support individual projects as part of the energy transition. Additional means are possible via this detour. In addition, the construction of converter platforms for wind turbines at sea creates new added value for shipyards and provides an answer to security policy challenges. “It is an issue of energy security and therefore national security. It has to happen that way.”
The Green politician confirmed Bremerhaven as a second location for the construction of converter platforms. He is confident “that we will see converter construction here on the coast in the west and in Rostock.” In converter stations, the electricity from wind turbines is bundled and converted into direct current for onward transport to the coast with as little loss as possible. According to the federal government, it is expected that from 2026 to 2045 the German market alone will require 33 platforms, each with an order volume of up to 2 billion euros.
Habeck also commented on the planned entry of the shipping company MSC into the Hamburg port logistics company HHLA. He confirmed that he had no concerns about public safety and order.
“I want to say that explicitly. There is a difference between a Chinese company and a European one like MSC.” Habeck made similar comments on Tuesday. The world’s largest container shipping company MSC had announced that it would join HHLA. However, a slim majority of the company should remain with the city of Hamburg. “This is a purely economic decision,” said Habeck.
The NMK is considered the federal government’s central event to support the maritime economy and at the same time the largest industry meeting. In Bremen, around 800 representatives from politics, business and administration will be discussing until Friday under the motto “Strengthening the location. Protecting the climate. Shaping the future”. The focus is, among other things, on the port strategy, the financing of port expansion and infrastructure, the security situation and the situation on the maritime labor market.