GERMAN INLAND PORT SHIFTS FOCUS

GERMAN INLAND PORT SHIFTS FOCUS

Taking advantage of international transport trends and its strategic location, Europe's busiest inland port - Duisburg's Rhine-Rhur Harbor - is steering toward logistics services and containerized cargo.

Klaus van Lith, chairman of the port's Duisburg-Ruhrorter Hafen AG, said that Duisburg's success in handling containerized cargo through intermodal operations makes it a natural site for multimodal logistics services, from packaging plants to distribution services.''We are following a path to become an international center for logistics and trade, by initiating and promoting new services,'' said Mr. Van Lith, noting the port's success with multimodal operations, containerized cargo, quick turnaround and river-to-sea handling.

From its position near the confluence of the Rhine and Ruhr rivers, Duisburg's port handled more than 47 million tons of cargo last year, about 10 percent more volume than in 1996.

As a result of Duisburg's emphasis on intermodal operations, its volume of containerized cargo rose by a whopping 36 percent - to 97,000 20-foot equivalent units - over the previous year.

Up until recent years, Duisburg harbor - founded in 1716 - was a typical inland port, handling mainly bulk goods such as coal, chemicals and steel.

While bulk cargo still accounts for much of Duisburg's cargo turnover, the port hopes that its multimodal terminals eventually will handle as much as 400,000 TEUs of containerized cargo annually.

Duisburg also offers logistics centers for forwarders, and a new rail yard for intermodal transport.

While Duisburg's traditional strength has been the iron and steel tonnage from Germany's industrial Ruhr Valley, Mr. Van Lith says the inland port is now focusing more on logistics services.

Recently, the Swiss-based freight forwarder Kuehne & Nagel AG strengthened Duisburg's logistics position by making it a distribution center. In addition, port officials expect the U.S.-based Hewlett-Packard Corp. to make Duisburg a European distribution center for electronics goods produced in the Far East.

Another factor working in Duisburg's favor is the recent decision by Rotterdam's port operating firm, Europe Combined Terminal, to build its own container terminal in Duisburg.