Starting November 1, feeder ships will be used for container transfers between the major terminals in the Port of Hamburg. This will relieve the port infrastructure by reducing the number of truck journeys between the terminals, reducing waiting times, and decreasing CO2 emissions. Together with DAKOSY and DIHLA DAKOSY Interessengemeinschaft Hamburger Linienagenten (DIHLA), we have created a digital process that also covers customs handling.
In the Port of Hamburg, container transhipments (transfers of containers between large container ships and feeder vessels) that are not loaded at the same terminal happen on a huge scale. The Port of Hamburg had approximately 3.3 million TEU of transhipments in 2021, although not every transfer results in a transshipment. "Ship-based transshipments can take several thousand containers off the road each year. Every container we can move via waterway reduces C02," says DIHLA Managing Director Alexander Geisler.
Migration potential of 50 percent
"We see a high potential to switch from road to waterway by using our existing shipping capacity. As the largest feeder carrier in Northern Europe, we have up to 85 weekly terminal calls in Hamburg and can therefore offer sufficient resources to transport containers within the port," says Florian Pein, Unifeeder Area Director West and Central Europe. The service that has emerged from this includes container transfers by feeder ship between the HHLA terminals CTA, CTT, and CTB, as well as Eurogate and, in the near future, the Süd-West Terminal. Unifeeder is endeavoring to switch 50 percent of its transshipment operations from trucks to feeder carriers. This alternative is important to Pein, especially in light of the shortage of qualified truck drivers. "We have been feeling the effects of the declining number of young truck drivers for years. This is increasingly leading to a serious lack of transshipment resources and long waiting times in the Port of Hamburg," emphasizes Pein.
Integration into the digital Port Community System with live testing
Together with DAKOSY and DIHLA, we established the framework for the digital processes and customs handling of feeder transhipments. The basis is the Port Community System operated by DAKOSY, featuring the integration of a new module. "The application is also of interest to other feeder carriers," emphasizes DAKOSY project manager Franz Schwanke: "The module has already proven itself in live testing. During the three-month pilot phase, Unifeeder transferred about 50 containers per month."
Integrated customs handling
The main challenge was to lay the groundwork for the digital customs processing of transhipments. "Normally, an export customs procedure must be initiated as soon as a container is loaded onto a feeder ship. In consultation with the customs office, we have created an integration function in both the IMP import platform and the EMP export platform that can be used to handle transhipments properly from a customs point of view," Schwanke explains.
The transshipment manifest as the key to the customs process
The so-called transshipment manifest was newly introduced into the process. With this manifest, we signal via EDI interface or via the IMP web application that we want to make a transshipment by feeder ship. As a result, a change of custodian is triggered through an automated process and no export transaction is initiated. The manifest also notifies the departure and destination terminals of the planned transshipment and provides them with status messages along the way. This allows the terminals to optimize their internal processes as well.
DIHLA provides preliminary financing
DIHLA has covered the initial financing for the digital processes required to implement feeder transhipments. Managing director Alexander Geisler explains their motivation: "Ship-based transhipments in the port are the right way to go. The current real-life constraints have shown that there is a need for this. Now the groundwork has been laid for digital customs handling. This paves the way to provide relief for the road infrastructure in the port and, taking into account existing shipping capacities and digital infrastructure, to be more environmentally friendly and thus moving toward the future."