The German port of Wilhelmshaven has an advantage over its competitors for the fact that it is a deep-water container terminal that could handle transhipments from the next generation of giant ships. The unparalleled nautical conditions at the port make fast and safe operational handling possible at all times. The port is also the gateway for a significant amount of Indian trade with Germany. Andreas Bullwinkel, Chairman, Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven JadeWeserPort-Marketing GmbH & Co KG, in an exclusive interaction with Upamanyu Borah informs on how the port has set the course for future growth.
Is it perfectly justified to consider JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven as Germany’s next gateway to the world in terms of its strategic location and throughput?
Being the third largest port in Germany, JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven enjoys several advantages. On the nautical side, the port boasts very short channel navigation times, which offer significant time and cost savings potential for shipping companies. Talking about the land side, it is possible to establish a company here directly alongside the port at the 160-hectare of available freight village area. A warehouse for instance, can be built around 800 metres from the pier, to therefore leverage the very short journey times.
Additionally, the port has excellent hinterland connections; the routes in and out of the port are literally always available. In other ports, they have to be booked a long time in advance. In the case of some unforeseen circumstance, it may take up to several weeks at these ports before a space is available again.
How are you positioned in terms of infrastructure with regard to the fact that the port is capable of handling some of the largest container vessels in the world?
Europe’s leading shipping line independent container terminal operator, EUROGATE manages, operates, develops and maintains the 1.3 million m2 container terminal at JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven.
Additionally, thanks to the world’s biggest cranes, even container ships beyond 20,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) smoothly function at the terminal, supported by a team of well-trained highly qualified professionals who ensure reliable and stable operations. The terminal also has a direct link to the A29 motorway, so that truck transports do not have to contend with congested traffic intersections. Besides, an intermodal railway terminal directly adjacent to the terminal site provides connections to the European rail network. For instance, one of the major industrial centers of Europe, the Rhine-Rhur region can be reached in a short time.
Going forward, the current consolidation process among the shipping lines and the resulting processes of change in the market provide EUROGATE with the opportunity in Wilhelmshaven to establish itself as a first-class container terminal. EUROGATE is therefore building up its future capabilities in a difficult competitive environment.
What are the key determinants that contribute in facilitating JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven to efficiently handle the movement of containers and various other terminal-related operations?
JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven is characterised by its location directly on the shipping channel. Because of a depth of 18 metres, ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs) can call at the port at all times, 24/7, independently of tide levels.
The quay length of 1,725 metres offers sufficient room to accommodate four ULCV berths equipped with 16 container gantry cranes. These cranes are capable of spanning 25 rows of containers on deck, enabling them to handle the newest generation of container vessels without limitations.
The multimodal railway located directly adjacent to the terminal site has six loading sidings, while the 16-track marshalling yard allows the fast and easy assembling and shunting of the trains.
Also functional and highly advanced, the two Out of Gauge Gates with a maximum width of 4 or 8 metres enables all kinds and sizes of project shipments.
What potential does Wilhelmshaven Freight Village offer to JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven in terms of business, leading to port development?
Currently, we are in the process of developing the freight village. At the same time, we are focussing very much on the organisations in the port space— trading companies, service providers, third-party logistics companies, and forwarders who are doing business out of here, helping the port to grow.
Apart from that, we are also trying to attract cargo booking entities to our port to use existing services and facilities.
How efficiently has JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven been able to offer shipping lines an excellent platform to serve the Indian subcontinent as well as seamless transhipment options?
We are well-connected to the Indian subcontinent through Maersk Line’s ME1 Service, Safmarine and all their subsidiaries like Hamburg. It’s a weekly service to the ports of Nhava Sheva and Mundra with only 28 days transit time. From the East Coast of India, cargo connects on AE7 via Colombo to reach Wilhelmshaven.
Altogether, JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven presents itself as a transhipment and feeder hub for container traffic to Scandinavia, the Baltic and Russia and the perfect place to tranship wagonload traffic to the European hinterland as it has optimum connections via motorway and to the European rail network via the intermodal station.
From a global trade perspective, how important is India for JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven?
We consider India as an important trade destination and see significant areas of business opportunity as our current clients grow in the region. This is why we are here waving our flag, making the stakeholders and the market aware that there is an alternative available for the country’s well-established ports.
Having said that, Wilhelmshaven certainly has some advantages to offer, for example, fast moving cargo to and from the hinterland into the port without any restrictions.
Going forward, we would like to see additional service between India and Germany, which can be made possible if other container shipping associations like THE Alliance that include Hapag-Lloyd, Ocean Express Network (ONE) and Yangming, would consider Wilhelmshaven into their portfolio.
What is your vision for JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven in the long-term?
We would continue to concentrate on container vessels and strategically look at the prospects of developing the port for the future so as to effectively handle these ships which are turning super king size from a giant size with every passing year.
At present, we do not have any plans to expand the size and capabilities of the port. One reason is we still have a lot of capacity to accommodate; at present, we are only at 20% of our total capacity. The other reason is uncertainty on how big these ships would continue to grow. Would it be a 26,000 TUEs vessel of 430 mts length and 70 mts width, or a 30,000 TUEs vessel of 460 mts length and 100 mts width, nobody knows.
Sometimes, it’s not only about investing money, but waiting and watching the market as long as possible and then reacting to it. Besides, we are not in a hurry because we still have the potential to grow.
Nevertheless, we have started conducting a permanent market study in order to be prepared and informed about the right time to start with the concrete plans for an extension of the port.
What about the railway network? Does it need to improve?
Well, we don’t have any problems with access to free slots on the trains, which is actually one of our advantages. Currently, 23 railway operators are calling our port per week with 3-5 trains operating daily to and from the port. Also, we are well connected to more than 100 destinations within Germany. Now, this is a good beginning.
For the current three main liner services which call our port from China, India and Middle East, the railway service has been sufficient and adequate to meet transportation requirements. We are not receiving any queries from the shipping parties.
However, the only requirement that we await is electrification of tracks and for which we had been urging state-owned German Railway from a long time. Finally, they have promised and are on the track to accomplish the same by 2022.
What kind of collaboration mode are you working with Adani Ports & Special Economic Zones (APSEZ)?
Last year in June, JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven signed a marketing agreement with APSEZ to collaborate in areas that will help promote trade and container shipping business between the two entities. Under the agreement, we are continuing to conduct marketing activities such as campaigns and road show events in India together with APSEZ. They are also invited to do the same with us in Germany, promoting their portfolio and reaching out to one of the leading European markets for cross-border trade.
We feel really grateful to have such a strong and well-reputed partner here on our side.
Will you break the one million TEU mark this year?
This year, it would be very difficult. In fact, this year, it is nearly impossible for any port to cross such a record mark.
In the next 3-4 years though, we are confident to be able to achieve such a feat. Recently, we signed a leasehold contract for 20 hectares in the Wilhelmshaven Freight Village with China Logistics, one of China’s largest logistics companies, and this will certainly help us to reach the goal sooner. The contract will see the construction of the “China Logistics – Wilhelmshaven Hub” offering a total of 60,000 m2 of hall space plus 110,000 m2 of open storage area for handling Chinese goods. The project has an overall investment volume of around Euro 100 million. The long-term goal of the Chinese partner is to raise a turnover of around 100,000 TEUs per annum.
How has the investments been since origination?
We had investments amounting to Euro 650 million poured into the development of the overall port infrastructure, and Euro 350 million by terminal operator EUROGATE in the construction of superstructures including 16 container bridges.
How has JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven contributed to the economic development of the regions it serves?
JadeWeserPort Wilhelmshaven is owned by the Government of Lower Saxony. The port, following it successful establishment, has acted as a catalyst of economic development by creating jobs for the local population.
Additionally, the government has offered large sums of money as investments to the port to improve the economic viability of the region and ensure additional growth in forms of new service markets.
Recently, we had the chance to reevaluate how many jobs have been created so far in the area since the establishment of the port, and we were surprised to know that 1100 people are currently employed directly or indirectly at the port. This is a collective outcome of the efforts of the port and motivation of the government to invest in it.