Lübeck - An integrated approach
A universal port such as Lübeck has to adapt to all types of cargo in the modal split. Managing director Professor Sebastian Jürgens told the ITJ’s Christian Doepgen what new projects have been added to expand and fortify Lübeck’s international service portfolio.
The changes taking place in the compound of the port authority Lübecker Hafengesellschaft (LHG) are there for all to see. “The ground on this site used to be approximately 12 – 16 m higher,” is how LHG key account manager Felix Klingbiel describes one project. The excavation of 1.2 million m³ of earth on the order of the Lübeck port authority created space for a new 301 by 85 m warehouse, which opened for business a few days ago. Klingbiel is not concerned about demand. “The hall will be full by the first quarter of next year.”
The next project is already on the drawing board. The terminal railway station on the quay, the Baltic Rail Gate (BRG), is set to be extended. BRG managing director Antje Falk pointed out that “in 2020 the tracks on the side facing the sea will be extended from 612 to 720 m.” The difference to the new ‘standard’ 750 m length of freight trains quickly becomes clear – 740 m trains with locomotives can be handled at this site.
The BRG hasn’t only recorded increasing demand for rail shuttle services between German and Italian cities of late, but has also garnered some new orders. The magic mark of 100,000 trailers handled was reached at the end of November; thus the LHG expects to set a new annual record throughput of around 110,000 units.
Market leader, new projects
Professor Dr Sebastian Jürgens, who has been on board at LHG since 2014 and its managing director since 2017, sees the diversity of cargo as one of the gateway’s strengths. “As a bundling centre we have to look to total freight volumes.” He’s satisfied with the hub’s overall capacity utilisation rates of its 16 ha operating area. “It gets a bit tight now and then, but that’s a good thing.”
Lübeck is the market leader on the German Baltic Sea coast when it comes to traffic to and from Sweden, Finland and the Baltic states. That’s just one side of the equation. LHG started working the Russian market, with a view to garnering ro-ro business from there, from an early date, opening its own office in St Petersburg in 2015. “We’d have even more chances if there weren’t any sanctions in place,” Jürgens says, underlining the as-yet untapped potential.
Success was nevertheless quick to arrive. From the years 2020 to 2022, 60,000 finished vehicles will be transported from the port of Lübeck to the St Petersburg port of Bronka every year by the Grimaldi shipping enterprise Finnlines. This closes a circle for Jürgens, as it “now also makes us a market leader amongst German Baltic Sea ports for trade to and from Russia.”
What about the fixed crossing across the Fehmarn Belt? “It won’t be in place before 2030; but it’s not a good idea anyway,” Jürgens notes. The Lübeck port boss considers it unlikely that greater cargo volumes – the official reason given for the building of the bridge – will actually materialise by then.
The picture is different for the Elbe–Lübeck Canal, which is set to be dredged to 2.5 m by 2030. Jürgens sees opportunities there. Whether the German government actually stumps up the EUR 838 million for this work remains open, however. With its new contracts in place the LHG has reason enough to approach 2020 with optimism, however.