In logistics, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing a location. The most important are good connections to international transport routes, plenty of available premises, skilled local labour and direct links to customers. Bremen offers all of these – and quite a lot more besides.
Anyone visiting Bremen in May can experience this for themselves, during Breakbulk Europe, Europe’s largest trade fair for project and bulk cargo logistics. Not so much by watching 10,000 visitors stream into the city’s historical old quarter, but rather by getting an impression of what Germany’s largest (and Europe’s second-largest) heavy goods port has to offer. Iron, steel and forestry products are shipped to and from here, along with machinery and machine parts, wind turbines and all sorts of heavy goods, a total of four million tonnes a year. Bremen and Bremerhaven – the two cities that make up the federal state of Bremen – share the load between them. The five docks in Bremen specialise mainly in handling conventional breakbulk cargo, heavy cargo and bulk cargo. In Bremerhaven the focus is on project cargo – it is an important North Sea port for the wind energy sector.
Containers, refrigerator ships and coffee
Although the breakbulk sector is, quite literally, a heavyweight, it only accounts for a small share of Bremen’s overall logistics business in terms of absolute figures. More than 80 per cent of transshipment takes place in Bremerhaven, primarily in the processing of container ships, car carriers and refrigerator ships transporting fruit. The Bremerhaven container terminal handles around 5.5 million standard container equivalents (TEU), making it the fourth largest in Europe. It’s an impressive sight – gigantic container vessels from Asia dock at the continuous five-kilometre quay, right on the Weser estuary, which is able to accommodate ocean-going vessels. Close by, ships are being loaded and unloaded at the BLG Group’s car terminal. Bremerhaven is Europe’s leading automotive transshipment hub, importing or exporting around two million vehicles per year. Such figures are quite hard to visualise. A cup of coffee makes things a bit clearer. Bremen is Germany’s ‘coffee capital’, with half of all coffee beans entering the country being imported through the city’s ports. Breakbulk cargo, cars, containers, coffee – add it all up and it would be fair to claim that Bremen’s ports are among the most important general ports in Europe. But this high ranking hasn’t just come out of nowhere. Anyone with a keen interest in maritime logistics knows that a quay and a crane alone do not make a port. Far more important is the wide-ranging logistics expertise behind them – an effective chain of people and infrastructure that enables all types of goods to be quickly transported inland from the port, to reach customers and consumers. The journey of a container begins at the container crane, where it enters the port’s internal transportation system before continuing onwards by rail or motorway link to a distribution centre or transshipment hub.