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Germanys Gateway To The World

The port achieved a new record of cargo throughput with approximately 126 million tons in 2005, a growth by roughly 10 percent; it is the second-busiest port in Europe, after Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. Container cargo handling via Hamburg even grew by 15.5 percent.
by Stefan Nicola
UPI Germany Correspondent
Hamburg, Germany (UPI) Apr 11, 2006
The scene resembles that of an Orwellian science fiction film -- without a single human being around, the giant Chinese container ship Shenzhen is unloaded in Hamburg Harbor, a port in northern Germany.

The steel cranes in the super-modern Altenwerder terminal, completed in 2003, pick up the ship's roughly 7,500 containers with the help of video cameras, and the loading vehicles that buzz back and forth from the cranes, shouldering their cargo, are directed solely with the help of a computer.

The vehicles are steered by GPS systems -- they know when and where to stop or go; in a strange manifestation of German correctness, they even flash their turning signal before making a left or right turn.

"This is the most modern terminal in the world," Hamburg port spokesman Bengt van Beuningen told United Press International, adding that it cost city and private firms more than $1.8 billion to build Altenwerder, the port's fully automated container terminal.

The investment was desperately needed: The fall of the Berlin Wall and the rapid economic growth in China, India and Southeast Asia have turned the Hamburg port into one of the busiest sea-hubs in the world.

The port achieved a new record of cargo throughput with approximately 126 million tons in 2005, a growth by roughly 10 percent; it is the second-busiest port in Europe, after Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. Container cargo handling via Hamburg even grew by 15.5 percent.

Huge ships like the Shenzhen, owned by Chinese shipping company COSCO Container Lines, drop off their cargoloads in Hamburg for further distribution and take on board new goods before steering back home.

Rapidly growing economies in Southeast Asia, mainly that of China, have significantly contributed to the boost of Hamburg's harbor in recent years, van Beuningen said.

Of the roughly 8.1 million containers turned over in 2005, roughly 2.2 million came from or went to China, a 29 percent increase from the previous year. "And we don't expect that trend to stop anytime soon. We expect double-digit growth from China for 2006," van Beuningen said.

So far, some 400 Chinese companies have a seat in Hamburg, and more may come in the next years.

However it's not only China that has boosted Hamburg's ranking in past years. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the lift of the Iron curtain gave the port two new markets: Eastern Europe and Russia. "All of a sudden we were not a bordering harbor anymore but right in the center of things," van Beuningen said.

For goods coming to Russia from Asia or the United States, Hamburg is the main pit-stop, and countries like Poland and Czech Republic are easily reached via Hamburg's natural network of river and sea routes.

In times of rising oil prices, transporting goods via trucks is becoming increasingly expensive -- no wonder many companies are using the cheap container to transport their goods. Wonder why there is so much cheap wine from South America and Australia in your local store? With giant container ships like the 984-feet-long Shenzhen, the transport cost of a bottle of wine is at roughly 8 cents.

With all the additional business, Hamburg port authorities had to invest into improved security measures. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the International Maritime Organization called on ports all over the world to implement its new security standards, the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.

"U.S. security experts at the time were in Hamburg and looked at the harbor," van Beuningen said. "We have implemented all measures as quickly as possible."

He added authorities made investments in the three-digit millions range.

"They ranged from new gates to beefing up security staff to implementing entirely new surveillance technologies."

A tour of the harbor, once a popular tourist destination, is not easily possible: You can only access a harbor tour if you apply several days in advance with your passport.

Hamburg's harbor is a deep water port off the North Sea, on the River Elbe; its history dates back more than a thousand years: it was founded in 812, roughly at the time when the first large-scale Viking attacks on Europe began.

As for the port's future, van Beuningen is optimistic: forecasts have Hamburg's trade with Eastern Europe and Russia rise around 70 per cent by 2010. And there is no sign of a letdown of the Chinese and Indian economy.

"For next year we expect to grow by another 7 to 10 points," he said, adding that the next super-modern container terminal is already in the planning.

Source: United Press International

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Altenwerder Terminal

GLONASS To Be Finished Year Ahead Of Schedule
Moscow (RIA) Apr 07, 2006
Russia's global navigation satellite system for military and civilian use will be completed a year earlier than planned, the defense minister said Thursday. "We should launch the GLONASS system over [Russia] in 2008, and not in 2009," Sergei Ivanov, who is also deputy prime minister, told a government session.






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