CZ/SK verze

"Railways Have a 50% Share of Inland Traffic with the Port of Hamburg," Says Port Representative Vladimír Doboš

&quote;Railways Have a 50% Share of Inland Traffic with the Port of Hamburg,&quote; Says Port Representative Vladimír Doboš
photo: RAILTARGET/"Railways Have a 50% Share of Inland Traffic with the Port of Hamburg," Says Port Representative Vladimír Doboš
15 / 06 / 2023

Within the framework of the international trade fair transport logistic 2023, RAILTARGET, under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce of the Czech Republic, had a professional interview studio where an interview with Vladimír Doboš, representative of the Port of Hamburg in the Czech Republic, was conducted, which was accompanied by Jan Sechter, Chairman of the Transport Section of the Chamber of Commerce of the Czech Republic. He not only gave us an overview of the cooperation between the ports of Germany and the Czech Republic but also commented on the importance of the railway infrastructure for Hamburg and, last but not least, the modernisation of the waterway.

We are primarily a railway media, but I think we have a chance here to talk about how important the railways are for the port as well. Could you tell us a little bit more about how Hamburg actually works with that web of webs and the port-to-port goods routes with the Czech Republic?

Each port is driven by what goods it can move, how fast it can move them, and what it is specialised in. The actual transhipment of goods is only one part. If there is no way to get the goods inland or to the port, it loses all meaning and is then a kind of intermediate link with no connection. The advantage of Hamburg is that it has connections to both road and rail infrastructure. If there is also a waterway, that completes all the transport modalities and each type of goods suits something different.

We, as Hamburg, are, of course, following these trends in the context of the discussion about sustainability and environmental protection, which is popular not only in Germany. The position of road transport is being neglected, and everyone is trying to get goods on the railways or the water. I would love to give some figures. What is meant for the hinterland, the railways have had a 50% share of inland transport with the port of Hamburg recently, and there is an effort to increase this share continuously. Recently, we have been slightly bumping against the construction, reconstruction and increase in the infrastructure share. Tracks are not built overnight, motorways are chosen and, let us say, built relatively quickly. However, rail infrastructure is more complex, and there is a fundamental problem: construction takes a long time, is limited, and there are many permits to deal with. On the other hand, the existing infrastructure must also be reconstructed and modernised. It creates a major problem when someone says that a certain amount will go into repairing the rail network, etc. So, if we reconstruct to increase by another 30%, we will reduce the infrastructure for the next five or even ten years.

Indeed, we are facing a decade in which, in Central Europe as a whole, we will have to live with the modernisation of corridors, the closure of entire sections and diversionary routes. To what extent is Hamburg following these fashions and trying to work on them? From what I understand, in all transport modes, Hamburg needs to have the best possible connections. It is also part of competitiveness. From a Czech perspective, our company orders transport and it is also relevant for it how much its goods will cost to get "across the ocean", for example.

It is true and, as I mentioned at the beginning, Hamburg benefits from having good connections. Nowadays, if I take one type of goods – containers – I have been observing for a long time that for containers, the share of rail in the transport between Hamburg and the Czech Republic is over 90%. The rest is on the road, and you can see there is a lot of it. If we were talking about other commodities, they might be more suitable for water and so on, for example, but the speed and, in fact, the cost are much better. These days, if we look at the integrated trains between the terminals in Hamburg and the Czech Republic, there are about 120 to 130 integrated trains a week regularly.

The railways play a huge role, and it scares me a little that it is not just the Czech Republic that is affected. You mentioned Central Europe, but it also applies to Western Europe. When I saw what DB Netz had planned, what they were to reconstruct... It is unbelievable. And a lot of it is the main corridors that go north, and therefore Hamburg will be damaged and affected, where they will have to find, for example, diversionary routes, which, of course, will also include passenger traffic. At certain times, passenger traffic should be prioritised, and freight traffic has to wait, so it will not be entirely straightforward. From the point of view of the Czech Republic, I would see the problem as the fact that we are the only ones with a quality exit to Western Europe, the Elbe Valley. The others are not complete.

The transport artery to Hamburg leads through the only corridor out of the Czech Republic, the Elbe Valley. I wanted to ask you, from Hamburg's point of view, you are in heavy competition with other ports. Apart from the specific waterway of the Elbe, which is an added value, what makes Hamburg better, or what does it want to be better in the competition?

The first is the service offering, which must be varied. We present Hamburg everywhere as a universal port because we don't focus on one type of goods. In competition with Polish ports, there is currently a lot of talk about Gdańsk. For us, Gdańsk is more active as a container terminal. Today the terminal is called Baltic Hub to distinguish it from the others, but it is still only a container terminal. Whereas we have to offer a wide range of services and are back to offering a wide range of inland transport. We started with rail, but we also support water. The Elbe Waterway is also a bit neglected, and we have a smaller share there. We are around 5% to 7%, which is much lower in the competition.

Long-term and systematically ordered transport needs reliability, which is why the governments concluded a treaty to parameterise the Elbe Waterway until 2030. Do you think this is a useful step? Establish the reliability of the waterway and then work together to maintain that river so that it is "ready" as rail and highway infrastructure for ordered transport.

It makes sense from my perspective, except that everything that is happening around the Elbe is terribly long-term and dragging on. One thing I don't understand is the party that is fighting the waterway. Paradoxically, it is probably the environmentalists who should understand that the waterway is environmentally friendly and that we have no alternative for certain goods or that those goods will actually end up on the road because we cannot put everything on the railway. So I kind of don't understand that. At the moment, we are dealing with Germany at least, but we are neighbouring Saxony, where the Greens have a large share of the government, and they have a slightly different view of the issue, which I do not share. Yes, I am in favour of sustainability and ecology, but I do not accept their arguments against waterborne transport. The Czech Republic really needs this waterway.

Indeed it does because the failure to modernise the infrastructure of the Elbe waterway and the ports that are supposed to connect the infrastructure to the railway is underdeveloped in both countries. Both countries are now returning to it, and intermodal is already making a profit for some ports. At the end of that road is Hamburg, which is a definite opportunity for intermodal to really make the ports into a model of the Elbe and a kind of hub that would eventually have a port end for global trade or pan-European trade. Is that the right way to go?

It is the right way, and you can see it being combined everywhere. Some would say that water is not reliable. Yes, there may be less or more water, but that can be influenced a bit, for example, by building at least one weir. There is just that tri-modality of ports, and it has always been visible. We go on the water, and when there's no water, we can put goods on the railroad. The connectivity is there, and both inland and Hamburg can benefit from it. Hamburg also supports the Elbe policy in this.

"Thank you for the interview. Mr Vladimír Doboš is actually a kind of ambassador of the Port of Hamburg in the Czech Republic. Thank you for your work and for the way you work with the logistics and transport market in our country and how Hamburg is such a hub for our world trade and imports," said Jan Sechter, Chairman of the Transport Section of the Chamber of Commerce of the Czech Republic, who conducted the interview.