Greater modal shift is a priority for Germany

Thursday 19 10 2017

At the Port Day in Neuss the German policy-makers declared that highest priority would be given to developing more cross-border connections with Belgium. "Antwerp is a natural partner for ports in North Rhine-Westphalia and moreover is of great importance for industry in this region," emphasised Rainer Schäfer, CEO of Neuss-Düsseldorfer Häfen.

40% volume growth expected

About 68 million tonnes of goods are currently transported between the seaport of Antwerp and Germany every year, including containers with consumer goods, chemical products and steel. The port of Antwerp is therefore a key import and export port for Germany – and will remain so in future. Experts are expecting growth in traffic flows of 40 percent by 2030. To enable this, the infrastructure and scheduled services will need to grow accordingly. 

Greater modal shift in Germany

To ensure that traffic growth is handled successfully in the long term, it will be necessary to shift increasing volumes of goods to rail and inland waterway services further inland. The stated goal of the Antwerp Port Authority is therefore to achieve a share of 20 percent of the modal split for rail services and a share of 40 percent for inland waterways by 2030. 

This is also very important for the industrial base in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, because Antwerp is the closest seaport for this region. 

Port Day in North Rhine-Westphalia

The Antwerp port community had invited high-ranking stakeholders and partners from the transport and logistics sector, shippers and regional politicians from North Rhine-Westphalia to the Zeughaus (Arsenal) in Neuss on 27 September – the motto of the event was “The Port of Antwerp. Mobility Partner for North Rhine-Westphalia”. The 200 or so guests discussed new opportunities and potential for growing flows of goods between Antwerp and the German state during workshops as well as information and networking sessions. 

“Antwerp is a natural partner for the ports in North Rhine-Westphalia and is very important for the industry in this region,” said Rainer Schäfer, Managing Director of Neuss-Düsseldorfer Häfen GmbH & Co. KG and President of the Federal Association of Public Inland Waterway Ports (BÖB). “We therefore need sustainable infrastructure without any bottlenecks on the route to Antwerp.”

The possible effects of the German national elections and the new state government in North Rhine-Westphalia on the development of inland connections to the port of Antwerp were one subject that attracted a great deal of attention at the event in Neuss. Which course will the parties adopt and which specific measures will be introduced in the current legislative period to strengthen the hinterland connections to Antwerp?

How the German elections effect Antwerp

The Antwerp Port Authority had already invited important partners from the region to political discussions in the run-up to the event.

The general feeling regarding the German elections was that regardless of whether a so-called “Jamaica” coalition consisting of Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union, the FDP Liberals and the Greens emerges or whether the Social Democrats possibly reconsider their position after the state elections in Lower Saxony and agree to form a grand coalition again, the results of the elections will generally have a positive effect on the region and hinterland connections. Experts particularly expect the Christian Democrats and FDP Liberals to provide good prospects for developing inland waterway ports and shifting traffic from roads to railways – both at a federal and state level. 

However, some participants expressed a more critical point of view. They fear that the North Rhine-Westphalia state government could place too much emphasis on improvements in road traffic. However, there are already positive signals: the state government’s coalition agreement names cross-border routes as a priority, including the upgrading of the Aachen-Düren line to include three tracks to provide better links to Belgium.

Karin Paulsmeyer, Head of the Department for Key Issues Related to Mobility, confirmed this. In her final speech at the Port Day, she emphasised that the upgrading of infrastructure will continue to be supported for all modes of transport, adding that the major focus would be on connections to the west.