Massive heavy-duty crane raises the standard of the port at Aken

Schröter underlines the stability and reliability of this service by citing that the container line service, which travels up and down this stretch of river twice weekly has not been cancelled once in the last three years. He believes that the growth in volume is thanks to the number of new clients who could be won over, who are using inland shipping increasingly often to transport goods inland from Hamburg.

Between 1993 and 2009, 15 million Euros were invested in the port in order to develop the terminals for heavy goods, container and bulk transport according to the requirements of the shipment industry in the Central German area. The location has proven to be a particular strength of the port at Aken. It is situated at the junction of the road, rail and waterway network. Schröter identifies the increasing concentration of the port (which was constructed in 1889) on heavy goods and on project shipment as a logical consequence. The business was given particular impetus amongst larger clients in 2006 when the lifting power of the stationary port crane was increased from 150 to 270 metric tons. This meant that the capacity of the port was not only increased to an even higher level, Schröter guarantees that there is no stronger stationary crane along the whole of the Elbe. The clients appreciate this fact, as a stationary crane is significantly more cost effective than a mobile crane. Companies from Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, especially mechanical engineering and plant construction companies, manufacturers of chemical plants, automotive suppliers and producers of energy and environmental technologies transport their large units along road and rail to the cheaper waterways. Many units are so large that it would be impossible to navigate long distances overland. Approximately 20 mostly large export-oriented companies make up the regular customer base in the area of heavy goods and project shipment, a further 30 are active in the field of bulk cargo and container shipment.

In the port, special areas have been created, in which large parts can be assembled, finished and packed for shipment by sea before they continue their journey to the North Sea ports in Hamburg, Bremen or Antwerp. From there, the journey continues over the sea to South America or ever more frequently to China. Last year 150 inland ships transported heavy goods and project shipments from Aken to all the North Sea ports. Schröter, who has been managing director of the municipal company since 1992, emphasises that the port's revenue in this area has therefore tripled since the millennium.

This development has also meant, however, that space in the port is very tight. For this reason the area to the east of the port is currently being developed in order to improve conditions for heavy goods and container logistics. The building work began in June. In the industrial estate Aken-Ost (East Aken) which is directly connected to the port by the road and rail network, some sites are still available as locations for manufacturers of machinery and industrial plants that rely on transport along the Elbe. This is a convincing example of how industry goes to areas where there is water. The manager of the port sees much potential in the trend towards water transport. The proportion of transport inland by ship from the port in Hamburg was only 0.5% 5 years ago. Now it is 1.5%. It is expected that this proportion will rise to 5%. This would mean 500,000 container units, as Schröter calculates full of optimism. The growth in Aken port is likely to continue.