Since 2001, the Hamburger Hafen and Logistics AG (HHLA) runs a terminal at the port of Odessa, the largest one operated on the Ukrainian Black Sea shore. On 24FEB22, all activities ceased, and the 480 HHLA staff were sent home for security reasons, following Russia’s military attack on Ukraine.
“Our solidarity is with our employees and all people in Ukraine. With the invasion of the country, Russia has destroyed the security architecture that has existed in Europe for 3
decades.” These were the words of Angela Titzrath, Chairwoman of HHLA's Executive Board, at a hastily convened press conference at her company's headquarters in Hamburg at midday, yesterday
Odessa terminal closure is bitter…
Philip Sweens, managing director of HHLA's foreign operations stated: "Odessa is Ukraine's largest port and Ukraine's main supply point by sea, especially since Crimea and the Sea of Azov
have become difficult to navigate."
The last employees left the terminal in the morning, shortly after first military attacks on Ukraine were reported. Before that, they were still able to reliably handle two vessels, which safely set sail from Odessa right after.
Since martial law has been declared, part of the workforce will inevitably become involved in combat action to defend their country. “War has never been a key to resolving conflicts. On the contrary,” Ms. Titzrath stressed. At the same time, she called on Putin to immediately stop the attacks and withdraw his troops from Ukraine.
… but will not threaten HHLA’s existence
Asked about the impact of the closure of her company’s Odessa terminal, which could be permanent, depending on the outcome of the conflict, she said that it would not threaten HHLA's existence. In recent years, HHLA has invested 170 million euros in modernizing the facility. Up to 8 ocean-going vessels can be handled there every week. Last year, about 300,000 containers were processed at the terminal, not a single box of which came from Russia. Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the sea freight business with Russia in the Black Sea region has virtually come to a standstill, Ms. Titzrath said. Overall, it is clearly contracting, as also shown by container throughput in the ports of Hamburg, Germany, and Tallinn, Estonia, where HHLA also operates a large terminal.
Metrans stopped operating Eurasian cargo trains
Asked about the consequences of the military raid on the freight train subsidiary Metrans, she said that all tractions had been suspended. The rail transports launched by Metrans over a year ago are currently at a standstill, confirmed HHLA’s Philip Sweens. He added to this that there are no transports on the so-called Iron Silk Road, which connects China with the economic centers in Europe.
The same applies to Deutsche Bahn’s transcontinental freight trains, as the company confirmed.
Just this Wednesday, Martin Koubek, Director of Transport Silk Road of Metrans, had said that 4 freight train runs between Europe and the Far East had been diverted from Ukraine to routes via Belarus for safety reasons. Angela Titzrath added that Metrans was only responsible for the operation of the cargo trains up to the Ukrainian and Belarusian borders, respectively. From there on, the national railroad companies would take care of the onward transports across their territories.
She reminded those present that Metrans focuses primarily on cargo rail transports across its European network. Traffic on the Eurasian routes, on the other hand, was only a “tender seedling”, but had developed very well with 10% growth last year.
When transcontinental cargo trains will be able to run again is currently completely uncertain.
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