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“A good rail link is particularly important”

Interview with Dr Söhnke Maatsch, Research Associate at the Institute for Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL) and Head of the Maritime Intelligence competence area on the subject of hinterland traffic.

photos: bremenports, privat

Dr Maatsch, you played a key role in supervising the study “Updating the analysis and forecast of maritime and hinterland traffic at Bremen’s ports”. What are the most important findings from it?
Dr Maatsch: In container traffic, we have seen that al-though the handling figures of the past few years have declined overall, hinterland traffic has grown continuously – with the exception of 2019 and 2020. The creeping shifts in market share up to 2018 mainly affected transhipment traffic. In automobile transshipment, imports increased significantly again, while exports tended to decline. This trend is likely to continue in the coming years.

 

What do these results mean for the competitive situation of Bremen’s ports?
Dr Maatsch:
Besides seaward accessibility, the competitiveness of Bremen’s ports depends more on hinterland rail connections than in almost any other port. This applies both to container handling, where Bremerhaven is one of the leading ports in the North Range with rail accounting for 46 per cent, as well as automobile transhipment and other handling segments. What role do the ports in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary play in this context? Dr Maatsch: Our figures for container hinterland traffic show that these markets are predominantly supplied by rail. Accordingly, good rail links to these regions are particularly important. The Czech Republic is by far the most important market for Bremerhaven – with a volume of almost 200,000 TEU. Hungary and Slovakia are now largely supplied via the southern ports. Does this mean that the southern ports have visibly triumphed over the northern ports in recent years? Dr Maatsch: The competitive advantages of the southern ports are very limited regionally, as our observations on the shifts in market shares show. This is particularly the case in the Austrian market. There are strong regional differences here with a high market share for the German ports, for example in the Salzburg region, and a strong position for the southern ports in southern Austria.

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Dr Söhnke Maatsch

Dr Söhnke Maatsch, Research Associate at the Institute for Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL) and Head of the Maritime Intelligence competence area

How do you assess the current role of the port of Koper in Slovenia? Some experts rumour that it would be a threat to Bremen’s ports. Do you share this view?
Dr Maatsch: Here, too, you have to consider which of Bremerhaven’s hinterland regions could specifically come under competitive pressure. The geographical location of Koper is certainly advantageous for southern Bavaria. It is about 300 kilometres as the crow flies from Munich to Koper, and roughly 600 to Bremerhaven. From Prague, on the other hand, it is about 500 kilometres to both ports, so Koper has no geographical advantage. With the expansion of the European core networks, the quality of Koper’s rail links to the markets north of the Alps will improve. It can therefore be expected that Koper will gain a greater market share, especially in Asian traffic. However, even though Bavaria and Central Eastern Europe are very important markets for Bremen’s ports, together they only account for about one quarter of the total hinterland traffic and eleven per cent of total container throughput of Bremen’s ports. If Koper gains market share here, the loss of market share for the Bremen ports will be in single digits – spread over several years. In this respect, the danger is limited. (bre)

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