HAMBURG (dpa-AFX) - The new President of the Port of Hamburg Association (UVHH), Ulfert Cornelius, considers the controversial entry of the world's largest shipping company MSC into the Hamburg port logistics company HHLA to be unproblematic. "We have four container terminals in Hamburg, and Hapag-Lloyd, for example, holds a stake in HHLA's Altenwerder terminal. All over the world, shipping companies are also transferring cargo to terminals, some of which belong to other shipping companies," said Cornelius in an interview with "Welt am Sonntag" (Hamburg and Northern Germany edition). He is not worried about competition, especially as MSC is not to acquire a majority stake in HHLA.

Hamburg's red-green Senate wants to bring the Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) on board at Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) in order to stabilize container handling. The city and the company, which is owned by the Italian shipping family Aponte, are to run HHLA as a joint venture in future, with the city holding a majority stake of 50.1 percent. To date, the city has owned around 70 percent of HHLA, which is listed on the stock exchange.

In return, the world's largest shipping company MSC wants to build its German headquarters in Hamburg, increase the volume of cargo in the port from 2025 and, according to the press release, increase it to one million standard containers (TEU) per year by 2031. MSC and the city also want to increase HHLA's equity by 450 million euros. The port has recently suffered setbacks. Last year, the handling of seaborne cargo fell by 4.7 percent compared to 2022 to 114.3 million tons - the lowest figure since 2009.

The works councils, the trade union Verdi and numerous employees are strictly opposed to the deal. The opposition from the CDU, Left Party and FDP in the Hamburg parliament has also spoken out against it, as did Cornelius' predecessor at the head of UVHH, Gunther Bonz. He lacks a competitive analysis as to why the Port of Hamburg has fallen behind. There were also questions regarding tax and competition law, he said at an expert hearing. After the Economic Committee and the Committee for Public Enterprises have already approved the deal by a majority, the Budget Committee will give its approval on Tuesday with the votes of the red-green government coalition. After that, the parliament will decide before the summer break.

The association does not comment on company-related investments, said Cornelius. "However, it is clear to see that shipping company participations are very common; MSC alone has more than 60 terminal participations internationally." The world's second-largest container liner shipping company Maersk is also heavily involved, as is the largest German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd, which has built up its own terminal division. At the same time, Cornelius also called for a greater commitment from the federal government in securing the ports. "The fact that the seaports are essentially the responsibility of the coastal states and that the federal government hardly makes any financial commitment here does not take the importance of the ports into account at all." This is a national task and not the responsibility of individual coastal states./klm/DP/he