Boosting port capacity and sustainability

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13th National Maritime Conference Boosting port capacity and sustainability

“Shipping accounts for some 90 per cent of global trade", said Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz in his opening speech at the 13th National Maritime Conference in Bremen where he announced the National Ports Strategy through which the Federal Government wants to make our ports efficient and sustainable.

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Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the National Maritime Conference.

At the National Maritime Conference, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (centre) praised the role of German ports in the transformation of the economy, trade, climate, and energy use.

Photo: Federal Government/Denzel

"The goods being traded could be anything from medicines that you buy at a chemist in Leipzig and whose precursor ingredients come from India, to machinery from Bavaria that is exported to America, to foodstuffs and raw materials without which our country would be unable to function,” said Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the 13th National Maritime Conference in Bremen on Thursday. “Everything enters and leaves via the ports.”

Nevertheless, he said, beyond the logistics community and the port cities, German ports had been neglected for a long time: "People took it for granted that the goods would just somehow find their way to industry and consumers," said the Federal Chancellor adding that: “Since the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian offensive against Ukraine, I have fundamentally changed my view of the ports and the maritime industry. Our ports are key centres for the energy transition, they are hubs for secure trade routes, transshipment points for functioning supply chains, and protective spaces for our critical infrastructure

The National Maritime Conference is a central event organised by the Federal Government to support the maritime industry. It is also the largest meeting of the maritime industry and is attended by some 800 participants. This biannual conference has been held under the patronage of the Federal Chancellor since 2000. Since then, this series of events has become established as an important stimulus for Germany as a business location and as a platform for constructive dialogue between business, science, associations, trade unions, and politicians on the challenges and opportunities facing the industry.

The 13th National Maritime Conference was focused on current and global challenges and what the industrial sector and politicians can contribute to better position the ports for the future.

New port strategy for sustainable ports

The Federal Government has clearly acknowledged its responsibility for ensuring that our ports are efficient and sustainable, which, as the Federal Chancellor stated, is why: "The Federal Government will increase its commitment to the German seaports as we set out very clearly in the coalition agreement. The new National Ports Strategy is still a work in progress but will reorganise the tasks and priorities for the coming years. It is important to me, he continued, “that Federal Cabinet signs it off before the end of this year."

For this strategy to succeed, he went on to explain "more investment in the future of our ports" was needed on the one hand, as well as "a European ports policy that would ensure fair competition and that the German ports would be able to hold their own on a level playing field with other European ports".

Ports are central to the energy transition

In terms of achieving climate neutrality by 2045, Federal Chancellor Scholz pointed out that: "German seaports have a particular advantage in this respect due their excellent rail connections, which is something we want to strengthen. That is why the Federal Government will continue to work on improving the transfer of containers onto the railways."

The sea shipping industry has also recently taken a major step forward in terms of climate protection: "The International Maritime Organisation has committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2050,” the Federal Chancellor explained: “This sends out a strong signal, which, given the global nature of the industry can of course only work on a global scale, triggering investments everywhere  in innovative, cleaner ships. This can only benefit Germany's maritime sector because it is already  more committed to sustainability than those of other countries ."

Make the location more attractive. Protect the climate.

This year’s motto for the two-day conference: Make the location more attractive. Protect the climate. Shape the future". The conference was also attended by Robert Habeck, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, Daniela Kluckert, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Digital Affairs and Transport, and Dieter Janecek, Federal Government Coordinator for the Maritime Economy and Tourism. They raised such issues as the key global, European and national challenges facing the shipping, shipbuilding, ports, marine technology and offshore wind sectors and the industry as a whole.