India and Germany have had strong trade ties for over half a century and Port of Wilhelmshaven has been a key contributor to trade between the two countries. Wilhelmshaven port sees huge potential in the Indian port sector, and is leaving no stone unturned to explore opportunities to further expand trade with Indian ports. It has signed technology agreements with two of the biggest private ports in the country and is actively looking to sign more such agreements. In an interview with Indian Infrastructure, Andreas Bullwinkel, chairman, Port of Wilhelmshaven, talks about performance and key developments at the port, trade between Germany and India, technology collaborations with Indian ports, future strategies and priority areas, and plans for the future…
What have been the major developments at the Port of Wilhelmshaven in the past year?
Last year, the port was able to sign a leasehold contract (for about 2.6 hectares) with an investor that is planning to build a multi-user warehouse for logistics start-ups. We believe that this is an important step for us, as we do see more and more demand for smaller warehouses that are willing to accept storage contracts even for smaller projects and shorter storage periods. This new multi-user warehouse will open up our port to these clients as well.
What are the key upcoming capacity augmentation projects at the port?
The main upcoming capacity augmentation project will be on an area of 20 hectares, for which an agreement has been recently signed, on which a Chinese logistics company is planning to build a hub for Chinese goods. The goods are destined for the German automobile industry, and for the German wholesale, foodstuffs and fast moving consumer goods industries.
What have been the key technology initiatives taken at the port? What lessons can Indian ports draw from such technology advancements?
Our terminal operator Eurogate is currently transferring the straddle carriers that had been manned so far into autonomously driven strats. The strats are working with GPS data and are allowing the terminal a denser stowage of containers on the terminal. At the end of the day, this means that it increases the capacity of the terminal.
Are you looking at signing technology agreements with Indian ports?
Yes, wherever it makes sense for both parties, we are open to agreements with Indian partners.
What has been the trade between Wilhelmshaven port and India? How can trade activity be promoted?
Indian trade has a share of about 3 per cent of our total volumes ha ndled, so there is a lot of room for improvement. Our marketing activities are showing good results, but we have to be patient. It is a huge market and to convince shippers and forwarders to make use of a different port instead of the one they usually use is not an easy task.
What is your view on the present situation of the Indian port sector and its growth potential?
The growth potential of the Indian port sector is enormous, especially if the hinterland connections are optimised.
I believe that Indian ports will also have to follow the way of automation and digitalisation. But in this respect, I am confident that the Indian port sector will easily be in a position to become a market leader, having so many young people who are intelligent, well educated and digitalisation- and IT-minded.
What are your port’s key priorities and plans for the next two-three years in general, and for India in particular?
In general, we are doing our utmost to get the project with the Chinese logistics company to work. And for India, we are hoping to get better access to the Indian market via a more attractive position within the Safmarine/ME1-Service schedule. This could make our port more attractive to the Indian market. In the longer run, we are hoping for positive decisions of other shipping lines in terms of including Wilhelmshaven in their schedules as one of their base ports.