Port Pro of the month

Port pro of the month: Dirk Claus (DE)

19 December 2019

This month we are interviewing Dr Dirk Claus, Managing Director of the Port of Kiel (Germany). In what follows, Mr Claus will tell us more about how the Port of Kiel is tackling challenges such as environmental sustainability, ensuring good hinterland connections and the digital transition!

(c) Port of Kiel

Can you briefly present the Port of Kiel? What are its main characteristics and challenges?

The Port of Kiel is one of the most multifunctional ports in the Baltic Sea region. Its geographic location and hinterland access make the port attractive for both cargo and passenger traffic. State-of-the-art terminal facilities and a high level of service quality enable us to offer our customers tailored-made services. Kiel is the market leader in ferry services to Norway, western Sweden and the Baltic States, and has long standing partnerships with the shipping companies sailing on these routes. The logistic centre on the east bank of the fjord of Kiel accommodates one of the most modern paper and forest product terminals which benefits from being located close to the entrance of the world's most frequented artificial waterway, the Kiel-Canal. Last but not least, from spring to autumn, Kiel is also a leading turnaround port for an ever-increasing number of cruise ships. Our two biggest challenges that we are tackling at the moment are the fine balance of creating continuous, strong economic growth whilst achieving this in a sustainable way and finding skilled and highly qualified personnel for the future. Only through achieving both will we be able to reach our goal of making the port climate-neutral by 2030.

How did you get into maritime transport? How did your career path lead to this position?

After following academic studies in geography as well as in business administration and obtaining a doctorate at the University of Kiel, I took charge of the Economic Development of the county of Ostholstein. After that, I became Managing Director at the Economic Development Agency of the State Capital City of Kiel. In the last thirteen years, I have been leading the Port of Kiel.

What is your vision for the Port of Kiel for the next decade?

Transportation as well as sea traffic in the Baltic Sea region will continue to grow, which is why we are investing in infrastructure and innovative technology. Digitalisation and sustainability will have the same importance as the extension of port terminals and hinterland connections to ensure further growth. Ever bigger ships with more passengers and freight will have to be handled with great care in a minimum amount of time in future.

In the next decade our main focus is very much on projects to make the port climate-neutral and to become one of the most environmentally friendly ports in Europe. Alongside our efforts to decarbonise our port operations and to provide onshore power supply, we are taking action to shift cargo in hinterland transportation from road to rail wherever possible.

(c) Tom Körber

The Ro-Ro ferry business is very important for the Port of Kiel. How is this business evolving? What are the main challenges you are currently facing?

Ferry traffic currently accounts for more than 80% of our port’s total turnover. The largest ferries in terms of gross tonnage in the entire Baltic Sea region (“Color Magic” and “Color Fantasy”) as well as the Baltic Sea ferries that currently have the highest cargo capacity, (“Stena Germanica” or “Stena Scandinavica”), are to be found in Kiel on a daily basis. Taking into consideration the increasing numbers of trucks, trailers and containers, the enhancement of the main motorway connection between Hamburg and Kiel was very much welcomed, as it enables smoother hinterland transportation. At the same time as road construction works were completed, German Railway Deutsche Bahn has enlarged Kiel’s central shunting station. From now on, block trains with a length of 750 m can enter the station – which means an increase in length capacity of about one third. By 2025, we aim to transport more than 25% of all our hinterland traffic by rail. We are already obtain this high share in modal split at the Schwedenkai terminal. The Norwegenkai terminal and the East Bank Port are now going to follow.         

European ports are increasingly investing in digital solutions to increase the efficiency of the logistics chain and port operations. Is the Port of Kiel taking any initiatives towards digitalisation? Do you think digitalisation can contribute to making port operations and the logistics chain more sustainable?

The Port of Kiel is undergoing continuous transformation processes in order to digitise its daily business operations. This approach is not only directed to internal processes but takes the external ones into consideration as well. Together with customers and partners, digitised networks are being developed and installed along the logistic chains, interfacing with the systems of the port.

To that effect, the Port of Kiel has its own software architecture team which is entrusted with meeting these challenges and which leverages the most innovative technologies. The operational staff uses mobile handheld solutions with assistance systems to optimise and streamline operational processes. Systems like this make all the operational processes within the port more efficient, like for instance shorten waiting times for trucks, which in turn enables more sustainability along the transport chain. This leads to saving resources which as a result contributes to avoiding CO2 emissions.

(c) Tom Körber

The European Commission has started the revision of the EU’s TEN-T network, to which the Port of Kiel belongs, as part of the TEN-T Comprehensive network. How has the port benefited from this status? What changes would you like to see in the revision process?

The Port of Kiel is a comprehensive port along the Scandinavian – Mediterranean corridor. With daily ferry connections to Oslo in Norway and Gothenburg in Sweden, we contribute every day to the much desired modal shift of trucks and trailers from road to sea and rail along the corridor. Combined with the block trains to and from Verona, we are part of a very climate-friendly transport solution between Norway and Italy. To enlarge capacity at the Schwedenkai railway terminal, we are currently investing in a third railway track which will be co-funded by the EU Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) programme. In addition, the construction of the on-shore power supply plant at the Schwedenkai terminal and the Ostseekai cruise terminal will also be supported by CEF.

In order to get goods to the desired destinations, good hinterland connections to the port are of paramount importance. Can you briefly describe how the Port of Kiel is connected to the hinterland?

Most of Kiel’s hinterland traffic is transported on the German motorways A7 and A21, which bypass Hamburg to the south and west. The A7 has recently been broadened to six lanes north of Hamburg, while the A21 is still under construction close to our city boundaries. In the future, when the motorway A20 is completed as well, the port will benefit from an additional river Elbe crossing west of Hamburg,  bringing Kiel even closer to the main catchment areas of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Regarding railway traffic, Kiel is connected to the national railway network via a daily shuttle train to and from Hamburg-Billwerder. In addition, block trains connect Kiel several times a week with terminals in northern Italy. As from January,  a new direct train connection will operate to and from Bettembourg (Luxembourg). In 2020, Kiel expects around 40,000 consignments – mostly trailers and containers – to be loaded and transported by rail to their destinations.

(c) Port of Kiel

Externalities such as over-tourism or environmental pollution are currently putting pressure on the cruise industry to become more sustainable. What is your take on this debate? Is the Port of Kiel taking any initiatives to cope with the negative externalities from cruise?

Emissions from cruise ships are scarcely detectable in the city of Kiel. That is the preliminary conclusion of a study into emission levels conducted over several months in and around the cruise terminal. A certified measurement process confirmed that while ships were berthed, all the applicable regulations governing air quality in the area surrounding the cruise terminal were complied with. Cruise shipping companies nowadays are already taking great care to minimise emissions to ensure further growth is generated in a sustainable way. In 2019, Kiel welcomed 0.8 million cruise guests and 1.6 million ferry passengers. 670,000 overnight stays were booked in hotels in the city. As capital city of the federal German state of Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel has all the required infrastructure at its disposal to easily cope with such numbers. So far, there are no signs of over-tourism in the Kiel-area, which is advertised everywhere as a holiday destination.

The Port of Kiel wants to become one of the most environmentally friendly ports of Europe. Which measures is the Port taking to achieve this aim?

Already for several years, the port has been using only 100% certified green power from renewable energy sources for all its electricity demand. Solar panels are installed on warehouse roofs and 20% of the car pool is electrified. Terminal buildings are build according to the strictest energy efficiency standards and LED-technology is used everywhere in the port facilities. The Port of Kiel’s first shore-power supply plant for shipping was officially inaugurated in May 2019 at the Norwegenkai. By using on-shore power, Kiel is reducing the emission of harmful substances as well as of greenhouse gases whilst the ships are berthed in the port. The Schwedenkai ferry terminal and the cruise terminal at Ostseekai will follow the Norwegenkai example and are to get shore-based power supply capability for ships in 2020. In the future, we will be in a position to use shore-power based electricity to cover 60% of the total power requirements of all ships calling at Port of Kiel.

(c) Stephen Gergs

Ms Adina-Ioana Vălean (Romania) has been granted the portfolio of Transport in the new European Commission. Do you have a message for the new Commissioner?

To reach ambitious European climate goals, the decarbonisation of the logistics chain is of major importance. To this effect, the modal shift from road to sea and rail will play a key role and can contribute significantly to reaching this aim. The EU should support investments in port infrastructure including on-shore power supply, the creation or expansion of railway terminals and the purchasing of electrified handling equipment. Ports in the EU – regardless of whether they are located in the Baltic or in the Mediterranean – are in need of a clear legal framework for the provision and bunkering of LNG, methanol or hydrogen, for example. The port and the shipping industries will benefit from a level playing field not only on a national scope but also on a pan European or, even better, a worldwide level.

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