A clever concept for all modes
The ongoing digitalisation of logistics and shipping continues to drive ideas forward for intelligent transport systems (ITS). The global initiators of ITS may meet in Hamburg in 2021. Frank Horch, Hamburg’s minister for the economy, told the ITJ about the city’s goals.
The concept may sound abstract, but it is really the be-all and end-all of the transport and logistics industry today. Cue ITS – intelligent transport systems. They stand for digital mobility concepts for goods as well as people, and cover all aspects of transport infrastructure, information and vehicles systems. Logistics play a key role in ITS – but not all of the industry’s players have got the point yet.
Activities in this field have been going on in the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas and Europe since the 1990s. Today, more than 100 partners from the public sector, private enterprise and various fields of science have joined up in Ertico-ITS Europe, which is headquartered in Brussels (Belgium). They are seeking to establish improved solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s mobility, in a world that needs solutions for the challenges of a looming and oft-cited transport collapse. The companies that initiated the effort come from eight different sectors, with the telecommunications and automobiles industries particularly well-represented.
A congress is an information hub
If this is still too abstract for you, then it’s best for you to participate in one of the annual ITS congresses in the Americas, the Asia-Pacific region or Europe, where new solutions for transport systems are presented and discussed. Your ITJ’s editor-in-chief took the plunge in June 2017, attending the 12th European ITS congress in the French town of Strasbourg – where he also came across the strong presence of the northern German city of Hamburg.
The port city located on the river Elbe is applying to host the ITS world congress in 2021. It is being strongly supported in this endeavour by French players, amongst others. A glance at the list of cities that have recently hosted the event – Montreal 2017, Copenhagen 2018, Singapore 2019 – shows that logistics metropolises, above all, are interested in staging this global meeting.
The city state of Hamburg’s minister for the economy, transport and innovation, Frank Horch – who originally trained as a shipbuilding engineer – took time out in Strasbourg to tell the ITJ about his city’s plans.
Senator Horch, why does it make sense to bundle so many subjects under the heading ITS?
A unified ITS approach creates a whole new ball game. You can receive support for activities that usually only get limited public or private economic support, amongst other things. But the crucial element is encapsulated in the fact that this approach combines all aspects of mobility – transport traffic and logistics – and develops solutions that are efficient, intelligent and sustainable. It’s more than a strategy, really – it’s a whole new philosophy.
But don’t ITS compete with existing efforts, such as the Hamburg logistics initiative?
Quite the opposite, actually. We’re in close dialogue with the logistics initiative, which also advocates our ITS-related activities. In the logistics environment it’s crucial to take the most coordinated path. Thus the logistics initiative contributes some rather important basic elements to the ITS concept, in the education and training segment, amongst others. We’re also talking about the workforce 4.0, which we have to keep an eye on.
The logistics industry often complains that it has to play second fiddle to passenger transport services. Is an ITS the answer?
An ITS is one answer to the challenges involved, at any rate. I’m thinking for example of the frequently major effort that has to be made to transport goods over the last mile. Intelligent traffic systems, in contrast, also enable intermodal solutions that ship the goods right into the depot. There’s a great potential here.
Hasn’t Hamburg’s port economy already got very far with its digital approach?
The Hamburg port authority HPA’s initiative for smart port logistics is a pioneer. Here at our stand in Strasbourg you can engage in a live experience of an intelligent solution for the flow of goods and vehicles – namely the port of Hamburg’s so-called ‘roads’ scheme, which stands for ‘roadwork administration and decision system’. An electronic map shows planned transport sector building works several years in advance, and in such a way that one can easily recognise the impact on the traffic flow and minimise it.
This great facilitation of planning and coordination efforts between partners is not a mere one-off. The Hamburg Vessel Coordination Center (HVCC) offers the port the same service for maritime and feeder ships as well as inland barges. These examples show how many opportunities there are for logistics.
What impact would you expect the ITS world congress to have if it were awarded to Hamburg for 2021?
We expect a great pull effect in Hamburg as well as in the greater Hamburg region. I’m thinking of the inland waterways, for example, where we want to increase services. We’ve also come to an understanding for mutual support with ITS France and the inland port of Strasbourg, represented by Catherine Trautmann, the chairman of its board of directors. One of our goals is a network of pan-European goods centres as a platform for continental logistics.
The ITS framework allows Hamburg to make the best of its traditionally close links to Central and Eastern European, through corridors that reach all the way to Russia. Shanghai, a key Chinese gateway to Europe, is one of Hamburg’s partner cities. The international impulses that an ITS world congress in Hamburg would send out in 2021 would thus reach very far. So the decision taken in Montreal at the end of October will very interesting for us all.
The interview was conducted by Christian Doepgen.