The Hanseatic city of Hamburg is on course for record figures in cruise ship tourism for the third consecutive year. On the occasion of the 827th port anniversary from May 5th-8th, 2016, Hamburg News talked to Matthias Rieger, Managing Director Cruise Center e.V. about the latest figures, environmental problems and trends in the industry.
Hamburg News: In recent years, Hamburg has grown rapidly as a shipping location – what is the situation like at present?
Rieger: A look at some figures answers the question: in 2009, 126,000 passengers arrived from 80 ship calls in the city. This year, we are expecting 640,000 passengers from 168 ship calls.
Hamburg News: So another record year?
Rieger: That applies to passenger numbers, but not to the number of ship calls. We had, for instance, a grand 189 ship calls in 2014. Yet, as ships become bigger and bigger, the number of passengers is growing continually. And many ships pay many port of calls in Hamburg. This year, we are expecting 34 double port of calls, three triple port of calls, one quadruple port of call and one ship will be paying it’s sixth port of call. Shipping companies just love Hamburg. The Cunard Line is arriving for the tenth time, MSC Cruises has clocked up 16 port of calls and six ships by AIDA Cruises have docked 77 times! We are literally becoming AIDAprima’s native port. Throughout the year, it will undertake weekly voyages to Rotterdam, Le Havre/Paris, Southampton/London, Zeebrügge/Brussels and then return to Hamburg.
Hamburg News: How does Hamburg compare to other cruise ship locations?
Rieger: In terms of passenger volumes, we are Germany’s top port followed by Rostock and Kiel. We rank third after Southampton and Copenhagen in northern Europe. And another top figure: Germany is the biggest “source market” after the U.S. That means, that apart from Americans, most cruise ship passengers come from Germany.
Hamburg News: Why is Hamburg so attractive for cruise ship voyagers?
Rieger: Hamburg is an attractive tourist city and is experiencing an upswing. Many tourists aboard cruise ships like coming for one or two days to enjoy the multi-faceted cultural offers like the international catering scene and of course, the countless shopping attractions. Just think of the business and adventure districts that the French property company, Unibail-Rodamco, are now undertaking in Hafencity over an 80,000-square metre area. Also, another cruise ship terminal will be set up there and thanks to our existing three cruise ship terminals, Hamburg is logistically able to welcome the many arriving ships. On top of that, Hamburg’s excellent transport connections mean the city is easily reached.
Hamburg News: How important is the cruise ship industry as an economic factor for Hamburg?
Rieger: At the moment, work on a new analysis of added value is underway and we expect to have the latest figures by the end of this year. In 2014, 4,000 people worked in cruise-ship related sectors, the gross valued added came to EUR 411 million. That includes work in logistics, by port agents, provisioning and repairs by Blohm + Voss. The new analysis also contains a passenger survey, giving us access to the latest tourist spending figures in Hamburg.
Hamburg News: The cruise ship industry is booming. More and increasingly bigger ships are coming onto the market. Is a certain trend noticeable among shipping companies on how they cope with rivals?
Rieger: Certainly. On the one hand, there is a distinction in terms of price and ship sizes. We are also noticing a growing tendency towards themed cruise ships. That could range from a motto like “Heavy Metal” or an exclusive show by Udo Lindenberg aboard a ship to a special culinary-themed cruise with a vessel. The key is finding themes that facilitate targeted marketing.
Hamburg News: Let’s talk about the environment. The Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union Germany (NABU) are not the only ones demanding lower emissions from ships. What approaches are being taken?
Rieger: Actually, the city of Hamburg and shipping companies have take a whole series of measures and invested millions on protecting the environment. Previously, heavy fuels with extremely high pollutant emissions were burnt. Meanwhile, most ships have been converted to diesel. In the last two years, now at the latest, operations in the port are running on liquefied natural gas (LNG). So on May 30th, 2015, the world’s first floating power plant, the LNG Hybrid Barge that supplies environment-friendly electricity, began operating in the port of Hamburg.
Hamburg News: How far along is construction of the shore electricity installation?
Rieger: The new shore electricity installation in Altona should be operational in early summer. During their layovers at the terminal, cruise ships can then get their energy supplies from the city’s electricity network. And the size of this installation means the port of Hamburg will be playing a leading role in Europe. However, the ships have to be retrofitted appropriately.
Hamburg News: At the moment, AIDAprima is being praised as an ecological pioneer.
Rieger: Indeed, the ship has plenty to offer. The AIDAprima is the world’s first passenger ship with a dual fuel engine, meaning it can run on liquid gas in the port. Thanks to the so-called MALS technology, it glides on a bed of air bubbles and saves a lot of fuel. The ship also has an emission filter and the sewage water aboard is treated until it has almost the same quality as drinking water.
Hamburg News: Emma, daughter of actor Til Schweiger, will launch the AIDAprima on May 7th during the port anniversary celebrations. What can cruise ship fans expect from May 5th-8th this year?
Rieger: A total of nine cruise ships will be taking part in the grand parade. And to those who are unimpressed by a “mere” 300 participating ships, listen up: those ships can easily pocket four Landungsbrücken!
Interview: Yvonne Scheller