Are European ports full of electric cars? – DW – 04/22/2024

Are European ports full of electric cars? – DW – 04/22/2024
Are European ports full of electric cars? – DW – 04/22/2024

Exporting and importing cars is a challenge. Each car takes up up to ten square meters of space, even when not in use. This causes problems for European ports where ships for car transport are loaded and unloaded. In Germany, this mainly affects two cities: Emden and Bremerhaven. The Bremerhaven automobile terminal is one of the largest automobile ports in the world. Logistics group BLG told DW that it loads more than 1.7 million vehicles a year.

Company spokesperson Julia Wagner explained that the port has space for around 70,000 vehicles: “All renowned shipping companies operate regularly in Bremerhaven and more than 1,000 carriers call at the terminal every year.” And BLG has noted that car processing has changed in recent years: “For a long time, we had 80 percent exports and 20 percent imports. Now this ratio is 50:50.”

The problem lies in land transportation

In Zeebrugge (Belgium), the port of the medieval city of Bruges, twice as many cars are loaded as in Bremerhaven. Many cars that have disembarked but have not yet been transported are also parked there. Elke Verbeelen, from the communication department of the ports of Antwerp/Bruges, confirms this to DW: “This happens in all European ports that ship large numbers of cars.”

However, the extension of parking time is not only due to the volume of imported cars: “The problem is not so much the number of cars that arrive, but the fact that they are not transported quickly.”

The capacities of the large terminals are still sufficient to park cars. Julia Wagner from Bremerhaven expressly underlines: “We are currently not experiencing any ‘congestion’ at the terminal, as has been reported in some media about the situation in European ports.” Even in Antwerp/Bruges and other European ports there is currently no talk of an acute shortage of parking spaces.

The shortage of qualified labor in the transport sector causes irregularities in the movement of cars by road.Image: Raphael Knipping/dpa/picture alliance

Change of habits

In any case, it is worth taking a closer look at the production, distribution and sale of automobiles, says Elke Verbeelen. Many things have changed in recent years. For example, the volume of cars at ports is still high or even increasing, because purchasing habits have changed. For example, there are new business models for some brands, such as “direct sales to the customer.” The car stays longer at the port and does not go to the dealership first.

There are also economic reasons that explain the high use of the port’s parking lots. This is due to the current “relatively low car sales.” An observation that Julia Wagner also makes: “The idle times of cars from all manufacturers at the terminal have increased with the end of state subsidies for electro-mobility, as the sales figures for electric cars in Germany have diminished.”

According to Verbeelen, car sales have increased overall. Although the level of the years before the coronavirus pandemic has not yet been reached again, noticeably more cars are being imported and exported “compared to 2020-2021”. The shortage of skilled labor in the freight sector is also being felt: there has been “lower road car transport capacity due to a shortage of truck drivers.” All this is causing “longer waiting times for cars at ports.”

(gg/ers)

 
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