Go-between for state and market
Changing the guard isn’t always a clean break – but Hans-Peter Hadorn’s succession is different. Since 2008 the director of the Port of Switzerland of many years standing has helped to create the organisation as we know it. The search for his successor focuses on the international perspective too, with hubs on the Upper Rhine and as far as the mouth of the Rhine on the North Sea all key partners.
What’s your personal bottom line on your retirement, Mr Hadorn?
I’m grateful that I could work in such an interesting industry for 15 years – an industry that completely absorbed me. Ports are a truly wonderful environment to work in, a neutral player at the interface between markets and politics – and international trade.
How are Switzerland’s ports on the river Rhine faring today?
Access to the world’s Seven Seas – guaranteed under international law – represents a veritable lifeline for Switzerland, a small, landlocked country that depends heavily on its import and export channels. The nature of trade is subject to permanent change, of course. Declining heavy industry volumes are compensated for by other activities.
What are the trends you’ve observed?
Teu not tonnes – that’s one rule today. The tonnage handled in our ports may be declining, but the volume of containerised goods is increasing. There are great changes afoot in the energy sector. When demand for petrol and diesel declines, demand for tank storage facilities rises. The current crisis may result in industries returning to Switzerland, which would unleash a great potential for assembly and manufacturing logistics, which will need areas for their production processes. The Rhine hubs and the port economy are so broadly positioned that we can follow economic trends.
How do you expect your hub to be positioned in future?
New sources of energy include hydrogen, which requires new facilities and tanks. Recycling will also become more important. The increasing re-use of materials will again see great volumes transported by water. The inland waterways will also retain their classic role in ensuring Switzerland’s national supplies, for example of grains from overseas.
Looking at international dimensions – how is cooperation with ports on the Upper Rhine coming along?
It’s very important, as inland ports don’t have the critical size of maritime hubs. We have to position our hubs as interfaces for trimodal traffic and regional centres of trade. We may not be in the Champions League, but we certainly play in the Europa League. I’ll be staying in office as commissioner of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine this year, by the way.
What are your key tools?
Digitalisation represents an opportunity for us. In the meantime we use RPIS 4.0 to register 80% of all transport data on the Upper Rhine, which represents a pan-European benchmark. 18 months of operational deployment prove that the system is marketable, and provides us with something of a headstart. In the medium term, customs clearance processing – the DaziT project is crucial here – will also be integrated into the system, of course.
What does your successor have to provide?
Besides political and economic sensitivity a long-term strategy and the right weighting of future risks are key. ‘Simple’ quarterly success is not the goal today, nor is a short-term market effect.