Full speed ahead in the direction of growth

It's half past nine in the morning. Hergen Hanke reaches for his first cup of coffee of the day. Not because he's just got up, but because this is the first chance he's had to get one. And this coffee has probably long since gone cold. Hanke, Managing Director of Umschlags- und Handelsgesellschaft Haldensleben (UHH), who has been talking on the phone with an electrician who is urgently needed at the port, asks his PA to fax over a quote, before reaching for his buzzing smart phone once again.

It's very busy at the port these days, and if everything goes to plan, pretty soon there will be even more work to do: the company is all set to attend the world's biggest logistics trade fair, the transport logistic China, from 5 to 7 June in Shanghai. "We did well at the 2011 Munich Logistics Fair," explains Hanke, talking about the upcoming trip. "Of course, China will be a much bigger challenge. Our first task will be to explain where Saxony-Anhalt actually is."

Yet this won't be a problem for the 44 year old. Hanke has a knack for the ports business, as proven by the rapid development of UHH which is part of the Oldenburg Company Group, Rhein-Umschlag. Hanke has been working in Haldensleben since 1994 and has been Managing Director since 1998. The company originated from VEB Binnenhäfen Mittelelbe, and was established in 1992 as UHH by Rhein-Umschlag and the Haldensleben Council.

Hanke set decisive impulses in order to develop the trans-shipment port into a flexible logistics partner. Today, the goods are no longer only loaded from ships to HGVs - or vice-versa - but are able to run through the entire logistics chain until they reach their destination. The company collects the goods at the manufacturers, packages and ships them, or collects them from the ships, places them in storage, and delivers them in requirements-based quantities.

This is also possible due to the construction of a container terminal in 2002 with which UHH is able to respond to modern global flows of goods into account. Before then, explains Hanke, it was necessary to transport huge quantities of one single product because it was necessary to load a ship full for it to be effective. You could fill the gaps in a ship's hold with stones or rocks for instance. "But putting old furniture in with a cargo of pig cadavers - that was not possible. Thanks to containerisation, that is now a thing of the past." In the container ports, the employees also make sure that the goods in the containers are secured accordingly to suit the fluctuating nature of sea transport. And with international deliveries and imports, they also take care of customs.

This year, the storage space in the container terminal is set to triple in size to 20,000 m². In addition, a 3,000 m² logistics hall is also going to be built, explains Hanke, who is also a degree-qualified business economist. "We need this space to ensure we can operate independently of the weather conditions. It will mean we are able to load, unload and store a wide range of goods which must not be exposed either to water or to specific temperatures.” Hanke hopes it will mean a further shifting of goods transports from sea ports and HGVs over to inland shipping.

Becoming more effective and being able to handle bigger quantities is also the motto at inland shipping line Börde Container Feeder (BCF) in which UHH has a stake. After the capacity of one of the two container ships 'BCF Glückauf' and 'BCF Amazone' has been extended with a cargo barge, or an unmotorised ship, the second ship is now all set to follow.

Even though Hanke is courting international contractors in China, the director primarily views UHH as being a regional service provider. "We primarily transport salts and fertilizers, agricultural products such as grain, and also granite from the local stone quarries. We see ourselves as being an ecological, hassle-free and reliable partner to businesses in Saxony-Anhalt." Thanks to the considerable transhipment quantities which are handled in Haldensleben, the port is now one of five ports which are viewed as being key to the state of Saxony-Anhalt - along with Magdeburg and Halle, Aken and Roßlau. Its location on the Mittellandkanal (Midland Canal) which is the main artery for supplying sea ports between Szczecin, North Germany and the Netherland, is a decisive situational advantage. "And the canal never floods or dries out - which is yet another big plus point."

Hanke also expresses satisfaction when the talk turns to his employees. Forty men and women now work in UHH, a number set to grow with the extension of the capacity. Hanke is appointing the first new trainees this year, who will learn all about the Port Logistics trade. And if possible, the trainees will become permanent members of the staff team when they graduate.

And yet how much longer does Hanke, who was born in Oldenburg, really want to remain among the early risers after what is now an 18 year stint in his post here in Saxony-Anhalt? "I really can't say," explains Hanke, ever the diplomat, in a slight north German accent. But even if the perfect views lack the squawking of the seagulls and the rushing of water, you believe Hanke when he says: "I grew up in this port. I love my job here in Haldensleben. And I will stay here as long as I enjoy my job."

Kathrin Wöhler

Umschlags- und Handelsgesellschaft
Haldensleben mbH
Dessauer Straße 39
39340 Haldensleben
ph: +49 3904 49873-15
Web: www.uhh-haldensleben.de