A job machine for the Ruhr region: the Port celebrates its anniversary
Duisburg, 16.01.2016 | Many companies on the river Ruhr are laying off employees or closing – on the other hand, the conveniently located Port has been growing for years. Now duisport is turning 300.
With the kind permission of Deutsche Presse-Agentur – dpa
Duisburg (dpa) - The Port of Duisburg was founded as an unfortified anchorage 300 years ago. Now sea containers tower over the confluence of the Rhine and the Ruhr. Global logistics corporations such as Kühne & Nagel and Schenker have huge warehouses at the Port. Every day a train loaded with car parts heads for China. The Port has developed into a job engine for an industrial region currently going through a crisis. "Right now, we are the last straw for the Ruhr region," says port boss Erich Staake. This year the port is celebrating its jubilee anniversary.
During the district's heyday, starting by the end of the 1950s, coal and steel were still the heartbeat of the German economic miracle - and the Port was the aorta: millions of tons of ore and coal were loaded and unloaded for the furnaces and factories of the region. At the end of this period, during which Duisburg was the richest city in Germany, a port that had previously concentrated solely on pure goods handling had to find a new path.
This proved successful, as is most clearly testified by the logport 1 port area in Duisburg-Rheinhausen. A Krupp steelworks had been in operation at the site for nearly 100 years. When it closed at the start of the 1990s, the country was shaken by fierce protests. 1993 saw the final closing of the plant, which in the end was employing around 2500 steelworkers. For years, the remains of the plant stood empty on an area of over 260 hectares. Then the port company began, contrary to many skeptical voices, to tear down the industrial ruins and develop the site with the help of state funding.
Now three container terminals are operating in Rheinhausen, and the facility has a rail connection. The Autobahn passes right by the Port. Globally active forwarding companies, including a major Japanese corporation and major companies such as Siemens use the site. Since the beginning of 2014, the Rheinhausen premises have again been completely marketed. Around 4000 employees work there now - many more than at the end of the Krupp era.
Thanks to its favorable easily accessible location, the Port has also become an important employer with nearly 1100 directly employed staff - including temporary contracts - and a strong pull for suppliers: Since 2011, the number of port-related jobs has risen by twelve percent to 45,300, as a study showed at the end of 2015 - that means every eighth position in the industrial city. Year for year, the sales, profit, and employment figures of the Port are growing.
Port boss Staake's recipe for success: "integrated logistics". The port company takes over as many tasks from its customers as possible. Take Audi, for example: since 2013, Audi car parts are picked up directly at the Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm plants, packed in containers in the correct configuration in Duisburg, transported to Antwerp, and loaded there into ships bound for India, China, Brazil, and Mexico - an entire transport chain under one roof. In exchange, Audi accepted a higher price in comparison with the competition, says Staake.
Of course, logistics is not the only the only driver of structural change in the Ruhr region, as social scientist Jörg Bogumil stresses. In particular, technology centers near universities such as in Dortmund also create many qualified jobs. And the Port is not without competition in North Rhine-Westphalia: The "RheinCargo" company, a merger of the Neuss, Cologne, and Düsseldorf ports created in 2012, has snatched away many a contract from Duisburg.
Nonetheless, with a goods handling volume of around 65 million tons or 3.4 million standard containers, the Port is clearly the number one inland port in Europe. Since large vacant spaces are becoming hard to find, Staake is already planning further expansion to Oberhausen, Kamp-Lintfort on the Lower Rhine, and now to Marl: there, the tradition-steeped coal mine Auguste Victoria, with its spacious area and port connection has stopped production. (Rolf Schraa, dpa)