BVWP 2030: Realistic chance of implementation within coming years
Interview with Jan Mueller, representative of the seaport operators from Lower Saxony in the executive committee of the Central Association of German Sea Port Operators (ZDS)
Jan Mueller, in March the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan (BVWP 2030) was published. It allocates 9.3% of the funds to German waterways. What is your view on this ratio, especially since road and rail will have stakes of 49.9% and 41.3% respectively?
As far as I know, all waterway construction projects relevant for Lower Saxony’s seaports have been incorporated in the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan (BVWP 2030), mostly in the “priority needs” or the “priority needs + elimination of bottlenecks” sections. In terms of financing, there is a real chance that these measures will be implemented in the coming years. The BVWP 2030 clearly enjoys better financial support than its predecessors. In my opinion, implementing transport projects, in general, and waterway engineering works, in particular, will essentially depend on the planning capacities available and the progress of the respective legal procedures. It is no secret that there is a lack of engineering capacity. Even more of an issue is the environmental legislation that is becoming more and more restrictive. We can certainly expect the measures affecting the waterways, in particular, to be the target of legal action by the environmental associations.
At the same time, the handling of seaborne cargo at German seaports dropped by 2.6% in 2015, while Antwerp and Rotterdam were setting new records. What do you think is the reason for this? Does it have anything to do with the lack of infrastructure development?
Comparing the German and the ARA ports for one year only yields little information. In my view, it is necessary to consider the long-term trends. The sea traffic forecast drawn up as part of BVWP 2030 shows significant increases for the German ports, and especially those on the North Sea. Overall, the transshipment volume in the German seaports is set to rise from 270 to 470 million tonnes between 2010 and 2030. This, of course, will only come about if transport infrastructure is expanded.
Late March saw publication of the port concept for North Rhine-Westphalia, according to which German seaports will gain in importance. What do you see as being the strengths of German seaports in comparison to their neighbours, especially those in Belgium and the Netherlands?
The strengths of German seaports lie in their geographical orientation towards the sales and producer markets as well as in the excellent interlinking between seaports and the rail transport network. Efficient hinterland transport via the rail network is certainly one strength compared with Antwerp and Rotterdam. The linkage of northern German seaports to the national railway network is therefore very important indeed. It is pleasing to see that Alpha Variant E has at long last been included in BVWP 2030, and this establishes the connection of northern German seaports to the south of Germany in line with the future demands. However, road transport connections also need to be highlighted, and these have been further improved by the construction of the A20 motorway. In general, I think that sufficient goods volumes exist to satisfy all of the north-range seaports. A mainport strategy, as has occasionally been advocated by the port of Rotterdam, should be rejected in view of the enormous concentration of traffic concentrations that this would cause.
Siemens is setting up a facility in Cuxhaven, now AMBAU is also relocating its activities from Bremen to the city. How important is the port of Cuxhaven for Germany as an offshore location?
As a matter of principle, I do not wish to comment on company relocations. Irrespective of this, it is important to focus attention on Lower Saxony as a location for the offshore wind industry. Both the geographical proximity to the wind farm sites planned in the North Sea and the fact that Lower Saxony’s ports can be used as production sites for offshore wind facilities make the ports attractive locations for further companies in the offshore sector to set up business. The fact that Siemens is setting up its offshore production in Cuxhaven is a good example of this and one that could act as a trigger for development within the location.