21 - 22 January 2019


On the 21st and 22nd of January, FEPORT co-organized an on-field trip to the port of Hamburg involving representatives from the European Commission (DG COMP (Competition), DG MOVE (Transport), DG EMPL (Employment)), the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), the International Dockworkers Council (IDC) and the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO).

In collaboration with ETF, the program was conceived to provide participants with insights about port terminal operations and all dimensions that are impacting them directly or indirectly, positively or negatively.


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The trip also provided the perfect occasion to engage in an open discussion regarding the problems that the different parties involved in port activities are facing nowadays and the possible answers to the challenges. In many respects the port of Hamburg constitute a good study case since it embodies all innovations and creativity that port stakeholders may deploy to meet their customers’ expectations but also offers good understanding of the challenges and impacts that are faced by European ports with respect to the increase in size of ships, consolidation, alliances ‘market power and their impact on labour organization.

With respect to social dialogue, participants had also the opportunity to hear from representatives from Terminals and Trade Unions that competitiveness is also a matter of social peace and balanced agreements between employers and employees.


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On the 22nd, the first visit of the day was to Ma-Co, a training institute which provides port workers and seafarers curricula that allow them to acquire new skills. Classes take place both indoors and outdoors and are held by Ma-Co’s professors, joined by more or less 80 freelance teachers from the port or other institutions. 90% of learners enter the labour market upon completion of their course. This high score is possible thanks to the meticulous work of pre-assessment of the candidates’ and a perfect knowledge of the needs of the Terminals.


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The visit continued to Hamburg Vessel Coordination Centre (HVCC), which has been established thanks to a decision from Eurogate and HHLA to cooperate and invest in a system that gives them a good visibility over the nautical and operational access of vessels in the port. HVCC coordinates and collects communications between ships, terminals, port authorities a 24/7 service basis and provides the best solutions for the allocation of the slots for berthing.

Finally, participants to the on-field trip had the opportunity to meet HHLA CTA and Eurogate’s management and exchange about operational matters. Debates also concerned the recent agreement between Eurogate and  Ver-di focused on the automation process of the terminal which will be deployed in the coming months and years. Both employers ‘and employees ‘representatives explained why the agreement is considered by each party as balanced because taking into account the necessity for the company to digitalize, invest in technology, innovate in processes and organization to remain competitive while continuing to invest in training and social transition.


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Before the end of the trip, a representative of GHB – Hamburg Labour Pool, presented the functioning of the pool and how and why it constitutes an innovative solution to cope with the pressure of peaks of activity alternating with periods of technical unemployment.

GHB – Hamburg Labour Pool provides terminals with a pool of dockers to cover short- and medium-term employment fluctuations inside the port of Hamburg. The pool offers qualified, available and professional staff. Participants were also informed that the pool system is becoming under increasing strain due to the deployment of Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCV’s). The fluctuation in demand of personnel per day vary from a minimum of 380 shifts to a maximum of 910 shifts per day. Without this kind of system, working conditions and port services would be significantly undermined.

FEPORT is grateful to the representatives of ma-co, HVCC, HHLA CTA, GHB and Eurogate for their warm welcome and the time they spent with participants to the visit to share their experience and knowledge. Thank you.