Transhipping history

Located in the south-western region of the Baltic Sea, the port of Lübeck operates as a major transhipment hub, with a dense network of liner services that establishes the port as a central turntable for traffic between the economic metropolises in western, central and southern Europe, including further routes to Scandinavia, Finland, the Baltic States and Russia. Since January 2008 the Lübeck Port Authority (LPA), operating as part of the public administration of the City of Lübeck, has been solely responsible for the management of all of the port’s infrastructure and finance, as well as the operation of its railways.

The port at Lübeck has a rich history that embodies a wealth of maritime tradition of knowledge and experience, which continues to serve the port and its users today. “Lübeck is a city located within Scheswig-Holstein, northern Germany and is the third largest seaport in the country, as well as the core port in the TEN-T Transport Network ScanMed Corridor. The town of Lübeck was founded in 1143 as the first German harbour on the coast of the Baltic Sea. In 1160 Lübeck officially received its city charter and has since grown to have a population of 218,523 as of 2015. During its early history the City of Lübeck was also the capital city of the Hanseatic League, which existed as a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and associated market towns between the 12th and 18th centuries. Owing to its impressive cultural history and its extensive Gothic brick architecture, UNESCO has listed Lübeck as a World Heritage Site. Today the port is a Baltic market leader in RoRo traffic, ranking as number six in Europe overall meaning that the importance of the port in the supply chains of central European transport remain unbroken,” details port planning division manager, Michael Siemensen.

“From its location in the south-western region of the Baltic Sea, Lübeck acts as an important transhipment hub and thanks to its Hinterland connections incoming cargo has several transport links to its required destination,” he expands. “The three-lane A1 motorway in the direction of Hamburg connects Lübeck with three main economic centres in Europe, while the rail network offers high-efficiency in terms of both carload and combined traffic. In addition, the Elbe-Lübeck canal provides a direct link to the European inland waterway network.”

As a major European transhipment hub, the Port of Lübeck has developed a strong presence in the surrounding area. The City of Hamburg for example, is an important harbour at the North Sea that is located 65km southwest of Lübeck and has a close relationship with the port. In terms of infrastructure the Port of Lübeck is about 375 hectares in size and encompasses a total quay wall of circa 31.6km with space for 41 berths. Lübeck supports 13 terminals located along the River Trave with modern handling equipment and highly trained staff. All of the terminals have excellent links to the Hinterland, with access via road, rail and inland waterway. The total harbour traffic from the Port of Lübeck in 2014 was 26.4 million tonnes, with 98 per cent of harbour traffic running inside the Baltic Sea region.

Its strong network of transport infrastructure makes Lübeck an ideal route for the transport of goods throughout Europe and the Baltic. Presently around 89 per cent of the cargo traffic to pass through the port is handled by the public port operator, Lübecker Hafen-Gesellschaft (LHG) (Cargo: RoRo & ConRo-Cargo, forest products, high & heavy project cargo, cars and anything else) while the remaining 11 per cent is carried by private port operators. The company Lehmann (Cargo: dry bulk, forest products, short sea container & RoRo) is the biggest private harbour operator. In addition, the port works with companies like Claus Rodenberg Port Logistics, Lagerhaus Lübeck, ATR Landhandel and Burmann Hafenlogistik who all handle cargo like dry bulk, liquids or wood. This has made Lübeck a vital trade route for players operating within several markets.

Lübeck offers all of the advantages of a modern logistics centre with the highest levels of quality and know-how, especially concerning forest products such as paper and pulp. This has made the terminal the largest transhipment and distribution centre for the Swedish and Finnish paper industry in Europe. “At first glance it is Lübeck’s geographical position that is so attractive to Scandinavia and Finland’s export industry. Lübeck’s location gives the port the shortest connections to the industrial centres of western and central Europe,” Michael observes. “Secondly, its excellent Hinterland transport connections such as the A1, A7 and A20 motorways, an outstanding intermodal rail network and the European inland waterway offer a significant advantage. Thirdly however, and perhaps most importantly, LGH and Lehmann have developed dedicated terminals with tailor-made solutions for their clients in the Swedish and Finnish paper industry. Furthermore, the daughter company of LHG, ECL, takes care of the distribution of destinations all over Europe. These factors combined provide a package that is highly attractive to our Swedish and Finnish partners. For these clients, the Port of Lübeck lies in the straight direction to the print production industry.”

The port also maintains a very good network of ferry connections as well as intermodal service connections. These allow over 100 short-sea shipping departures per week to its main partner harbours. The top ten harbours in 2014 were Trelleborg (SWE), Malmö (SWE), Helsinki (FIN), Hanko (FIN), Liepaja (LET), Hamina/Kotka (FIN), St. Petersburg (RUS), Kemi (FIN), Husum (SWE) and Rauma (FIN) – following Paldiski (EST) and Klaipeda (LIT). Also served and relating to the ship schedule are intermodal connections (70 trains per week) to the following main destinations: Ludwigshafen, Duisburg, Köln, Karlsruhe, Hamburg (all GER), Verona and Novara (both ITA).

Further to its comprehensive logistical connections, the port incorporates several other significant strengths. For example, Lübeck offers 24/7 terminal operations; handling from RoPax-vessels of a length of up to 250 metres; and handling from bulk vessels ranging from coaster class vessels to handysize and panamax ships. The Lübeck Port Authority has also contributed to the ReaLNG project that is funded by the EU by upgrading its port infrastructure to facilitate LNG bunkering in the future.

Although the Port of Lübeck its currently and will remain an important transport hub, the terminal will face some challenges during the coming years with the construction of an immersed tunnel under the Fehmarnbelt. Commenting on this development, Michael elaborates: “Looking at the traffic/trade prognosis, the port will lose cargo to the new land bridge. The ferry links between Lübeck and Swedish ports will be under pressure – unless there is an investment of unilateral public spending. What we demand is a fair competition among the road, rail and ferry transport sectors. That means the costs for using the development must not be subsidised, otherwise there will be a distortion of competition and that damages the prospect of growing together.”

To ensure that the Port of Lübeck will be able to remain as a leading transhipment and logistical hub during the coming years, the port authority is currently implementing its harbour development plan with a projected timescale leading to 2030. “The harbour development plan investigates on the basis of traffic/trade prognosis together with type, quantity and size of the vessels using the port and developments in cargo loading/unloading equipment to determine the future requirements of Lübeck,” Michael concludes. “In time this will result in the development of new equipment, piers and the development of further space. It is the intention of the Lübeck Port Authority to increase the competitive capacity/competitiveness of the harbour into the future.”

Lübeck Port Authority

  • Historic German port
  • Key Baltic transport hub
  • Continued development