Port in the act

Located on Jutland peninsula of northern Denmark, the Port (Havn) of Hirtshals has a history dating back to 1st December 1929, when the harbour was recognised for its key location at the mouth of the Skagerrak. This situation has become an essential element of the port’s history, being of benefit due to three reasons: a prime site on the passage between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea; proximity to Norway and Sweden; and the efficiency of local logistic networks. “There are three reasons why we will be the leading commercial port for northern Denmark,” says managing director Jens Jensen. “Geography geography and geography.”

Since being acquired by the local municipality on 1st January 2001, the Port of Hirtshals has grown even stronger. Though operating in an official role for the municipal government, the port itself nonetheless operates as a completely self-funded private enterprise meaning all money stays within the site itself. This has resulted in being able to invest approximately 54 million euros into the development of port facilities and services. Between 2006 and 2009, construction projects have included: the rebuilding of two ferry berths to accommodate two new superspeed ferries; creation of a customs and service centre; deepening East Basin 1 to improve safety standards for landing pelagic vessels; and the restructuring of road links and lanes throughout central East Harbour.

As Jens points out, the results have been impressive: “Three ferry companies call at the Port of Hirtshals daily: Color Line, Fjord Line and Smyril Line. Together they have established passenger routes throughout Scandinavia and the North Atlantic including Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland. Last year these connections saw the highest passenger figures in our history. For the first time, more than two million people passed through the port along with just under 600,000 passenger cars.”

It is, however, ro-ro traffic that comprises the port’s primary business unit. Though the growth in trailer and truck traffic had slowed because of the financial crisis – with only a four per cent increase – it nonetheless remained high with 123,000 trucks and trailers, equating to 1.3 million tonnes of cargo. The majority of this comes via the three ferry companies Color Line, Fjord Line and Smyril Line; additionally Nor Lines calls at the port with general cargo on its services between the Port of Hirtshals and Germany and Norway. Apart from this port is also an important fishing hub, with 24 hour fishing services ranging from landing to processing at its temperature- and hygiene-controlled Fish Terminal. In 2010, the value of fish landed at the port was 55.7 million euros.

Jens is steadfast in believing location is the most important reason behind this: “We are very close to the main routes and channels for the North Sea, which pass around the top of Jutland, meaning all services between the North Sea and Baltic Sea pass alongside the port. Onshore, the E39 motorway leads into and ends at the port’s transport centre, which has been specifically developed towards supporting ro-ro traffic. Therefore companies can use Hirtshals as a way port and combine it with our routes to Norway and the North Atlantic, making use of existing truck and ship services, for the possibility of gaining higher income.”

There is more to the port than simple geography, however. One of its biggest strengths is the close co-operation with clients that it maintains throughout daily operations and future development. “We don’t make any investments unless it is planned in co-operation and co-ordination with the ferry companies, so that all our facilities are optimised around their needs. For example, three years ago we were planning to build a brand new ferry terminal and it required moving some of the fishing industry to make enough space for check in, road and car park facilities. So we, along with the ferry company and our largest fishing company, sat around a table working out the most useful way to restructure the port. In the end we reached a solution that suited everybody.”

As earlier figures highlight, business for the port has remained relatively positive even through the financial recession. This was helped by the aforementioned two superspeed ferries, introduced by Color Line at the beginning of 2008, which helped increase passenger traffic whilst cargo volumes slowed. However, with the worst of the recession now passed, good prospects are expected for the coming years.

There is already plenty in the pipeline to ensure the good times continue well into the future. An initiative to establish the production of coalfish lead by the Hirtshals’ Fisherman Association in co-operation with the port was recently undertaken, further cementing it as a leading figure in the Danish fishing industry. Meanwhile, next year will see Fjord Line introducing two new cruise ferries between the Port of Hirtshals and west Norway, increasing the traffic on this route to daily services. From 2012 the Port of Hirtshals will have over 40 weekly ferry calls from destinations in Norway and the North Atlantic.

“We have invested very hard for the past few years and now our focus is to create more traffic for the facilities we have, rather than creating new facilities,” explains Jens. “As such, over the next few years we believe that we will become the leading commercial port in Northern Denmark with more lines and services to western Europe, the Baltics and north Atlantic than any other. ukWhen traffic increases, and we expect it will, then we will begin thinking about new investments but for the time being we want to better co-operation and co-ordination to deliver the most efficient and optimal performance possible.”

Ideal geographical position
Close co-operation with port users
Acute business understanding