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Efficient Coordination of Mega-ship Calls Boosts Port of Hamburg

With the Nautical Terminal Coordination (NTK),Hamburg now boasts a centralised operational coordination of mega-ship calls – long before a vessel proceeds up the estuary of the river Elbe

Since 2008, the number of ultra large vessels calling at the Port of Hamburg has steadily increased from 621 to 989 ships, including not only container ships, but also cruise ships, bulk carriers and other vessels. This is resulting in some major challenges for the port operators, shipping companies and authorities. With the introduction of the Nautical Terminal Coordination (NTK), there is now a body to handle the centralised operational co-ordination of mega-ship calls for the first time – long before a vessel proceeds up the estuary of the river Elbe. It draws on the experience and the structures of the Feeder Logistics Center (FLZ).

A Service Not Limited to Container Shipping

Dr. Stefan Behn, member of the Executive Board of HHLA and responsible for the Container segment, stresses the importance of Nautical Terminal Coordination: “We are continuing the successful work of the Feeder Logistics Center with Nautical Terminal Coordination. Both of these are prime examples of the co-operative approach that we adopt to jointly rise to the challenges we face in the Port of Hamburg – not only in relation to container ships, but also to much more besides. Everyone involved benefits from the work of Nautical Terminal Coordination.” Peter Zielinski, Managing Director of EUROGATE Container Terminal Hamburg GmbH, emphasises the uniqueness of Nautical Terminal Coordination: “We are delighted to see the four Hamburg container terminals being joined by Hansaport, the biggest bulk cargo terminal in Hamburg, in Nautical Terminal Coordination. The involvement of other shipping points would also make sense and would be welcomed.”

Approach Already Planed in Gibraltar

Heinrich Goller, Managing Director of FLZ/NTK, describes the facility’s character: The Nautical Terminal Coordination pools communication channels and identifies the interdependency of decisions made in mega-ship handling to resolve these issues as as early as possible. In contrast to public port authorities, we already track the ships on their approach routes, for example all the way from Gibraltar, and, in particular, from previous ports. By acting as the central point of contact, we eliminate bilateral communication for the other parties on the one hand and avoid operational friction on the other.”

Additional Co-operation Partners Wanted

Harbour Master Jörg Pollmann comments on Nautical Terminal Coordination: “We are delighted to see the Nautical Terminal Co-ordination up and running. It takes the pressure off the Vessel Traffic Service Centre, because it allows us to focus on what are actually our official duties. We, too, are therefore keen to see more shipping points getting involved in Nautical Terminal Coordination.”

To Run On Three Shifts Soon

Nautical Terminal Coordination has been working since the start of October on the basis of a two-shift system. A third shift is set to be introduced as soon as possible, by hiring new staff to today’s three. NTK’s duties for the Hamburg container terminals and Hansaport include cross-terminal coordination of the preliminary planning, approach guidance and departure planning of mega-ships in the Port of Hamburg. NTK will also assume a central and active communication role in relation to the Vessel Traffic Service Centre.

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The work of NTK - an example

It’s summer in Hamburg. Two container mega-ships and a bulker are coming in with the tide, while two container ships head out. The vessels are between 300 and 400 metres long and up to 56 metres wide. NTK staff monitor the ships from various terminals and calculate the possible passing options as well as the vessels’ terminal arrival and departure times on the basis of their draughts.
There are additional requirements that also have to be taken into account: When can the vessels pass under the Köhlbrand Bridge? Where may the vessels pass each other? What happens if the water levels change? Additionally various aspects also have to be considered: When will the ship currently docked at the berth be ready to go? For which shift has a terminal ordered dockers with the intention of starting work on a ship? What is the optimum operational arrangement? NTK staff members must constantly consider the effect a decision regarding one vessel might have on the operational situation of other vessels. NTK monitors the ships throughout Northern Europe long before they arrive. It shares its operational solutions with the public port authorities that are the responsible for all traffic on the river Elbe and ultimately decide the route a vessel is to take.

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