The number of ultra large vessels calling at the Port of Hamburg has increased by almost a third since 2008, reaching 989 from 621.
This includes not only container ships, but also cruise ships, bulk carriers and other vessels, all of which are subject to different restrictions when navigating the estuary to and from Hamburg, caused by the water level in the river Elbe or the width of the navigation channel.
According to the port, this is resulting in some major challenges for the port operators, shipping companies and authorities.
These restrictions have to be taken into account when ship calls are being processed and this results in there being interdependency on the arrival or departure of other ships. With Nautical Terminal Coordination, a body has been introduced that monitors the interdependency of all ship entries in Northern Europe and can then identify conflict situations and reduce the impact on the entire port system.
The Nautical Terminal Coordination (NTK) is a body aimed at handling the centralised operational coordination of mega-ship calls for the first time – long before a vessel proceeds up the estuary of the river Elbe. It draws on the experience and the structures of the Feeder Logistics Center (FLZ).
Heinrich Goller, Managing Director of FLZ/NTK said: “It’s the job of Nautical Terminal Coordination to pool communication channels and to identify the interdependency of decisions made in mega-ship handling early on and to resolve these issues as far as is possible. In contrast to public port authorities, we already track the ships on their approach routes, for example all the way from Gibraltar and in particular from the previous ports. We are therefore able to spot potential disruptions very early on and to then develop operation-based proposals. We actively coordinate the workflows and develop demand situations from the perspective of the Hamburg terminals, which we reach agreement on with the relevant public port authorities. By acting as the central point of contact, we eliminate bilateral communication for the other parties on the one hand and avoid operational friction on the other.”
Peter Zielinski, Managing Director of EUROGATE Container Terminal Hamburg GmbH, said: “It made sense to set up Nautical Terminal Coordination and it was also necessary, irrespective of the impending judgement regarding the dredging of the navigation channel. This is because the number of mega-ship calls has increased significantly in recent years. We are therefore delighted to see the four Hamburg container terminals being joined by Hansaport, the biggest bulk cargo terminal in Hamburg, in Nautical Terminal Coordination. The involvement of other shipping points would also make sense and would be welcomed.”
Nautical Terminal Coordination has been working since the start of October on the basis of a two-shift system. According to the port, a third shift is set to be introduced as soon as possible, and preparations are currently under way to increase staff numbers to accommodate this.
NTK’s duties for the Hamburg container terminals and Hansaport include cross-terminal coordination of the preliminary planning, approach guidance and departure planning of mega-ships in the Port of Hamburg.
NTK will also assume a central and active communication role in relation to the Vessel Traffic Service Centre.