15 Sep 2023, 11:55
Benjamin Wehrmann

Scholz promises new national ports strategy to make Germany’s maritime industry fit for climate targets

Clean Energy Wire / Handelsblatt

Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz has unveiled plans to strengthen the country’s ports to support the expansion of offshore wind power and LNG and green hydrogen infrastructure. Speaking at the National Maritime Conference in the northern city state Bremen, Scholz said “the times in which ports, seafaring industry and maritime economy have been underappreciated are over." The announcement followed on a joint appeal by port cities and coastal states which argued that the infrastructure for shipping and other maritime activities has been vastly underfunded in recent years. Ports said they should receive about 400 million euros per year in public funding to adapt to new requirements posed by the need to ensure energy security and the shift to climate neutrality, up from currently less than 40 million euros, business newspaper Handelsblatt reported. “The federal government clearly acknowledges its responsibility in contributing to capable and future-proof ports that possess the necessary infrastructure,” Scholz said. The chancellor said ports on both the North and Baltic coasts would need more funding, but stopped short of making concrete promises. Bremen’s mayor Andreas Bovenschulte told Handelsblatt that the current funding would not even be enough to build a modern large school or kindergarten today. “For a new national ports strategy, this definitely is way too little,” the mayor said, pointing out at the much larger funding of ports in Rotterdam, Antwerp or Gdansk.

Scholz also pointed to difficulties at the Panama Canal, where many cargo ships were held up this year due to low water levels caused by a lack of rain in the region. He highlighted the challenges climate change poses for shipping, which covers around 90 percent of worldwide trade volume. “This shows how everything is connected: climate change and interrupted supply chains, environment and logistics, rain in Panama […] and the global economy,” Scholz said. He promised the new strategy would take these interdependencies into account, emphasising that it should be adopted this year, if possible. He also urged shipping companies that had “made good money” in recent years to take responsibility and invest in modernising port infrastructure. At the same time, a “European port strategy” would be needed to ensure fair competition and better coordination across the EU. In a statement, economy and climate action minister Robert Habeck underlined the importance of ports for energy security and economic transformation. Converter stations to transport offshore wind energy could become a new business field for shipbuilders, Habeck said. Moreover, new rules agreed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) made progress in decarbonising the shipping industry ever more urgent. “Engines in the shipping industry must become climate neutral. This also offers great opportunities for Germany as an innovative maritime location,” Habeck said.

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