The Port of Mertert, Luxembourg’s inland port, has invested €20 million in upgrades over the past decade to extend its capacity. With the new transport hub in Bettembourg, the port is looking forward to greater logistics opportunities, says the port’s president, Jeannot Poeker.
Can you give us a general overview of the river freight industry in Luxembourg? What is the importance of a company like the Port of Mertert?
The Port of Mertert is located on the left bank of the Moselle River. It has a length of 3.3 kilometers and a surface of 65 hectares. It has been built predominantly for the steel industry and was used essentially by Arcelor Mittal to import and export steel products. In a second stage, the port is used for the transport of petroleum products, with a large part of the port dedicated to these activities. We are planning to expand the surface dedicated to the storage of the petroleum products. For the time being we have about 62,000 cubic meters storage capacity, and we are in the authorization process for additional 90,000 cubic meters.
Can you give us a few numbers, or fact and figures to illustrate the importance of the river freight industry in Luxembourg? What kind of volumes are we talking about?
Last year we had a total traffic of over 1.2 million tons; however our annual tonnage fluctuates quite a bit as we are highly depending on the steel industry. Beginning of 2015, our tonnage has increased due to the new activity of our containers, which we didn’t have before.
Can you give us some examples of other products, technical shipments you’ve had to handle?
Steel and petroleum were the main products transited at the port; however we have diversified and accommodate also other industry products such as raw materials and agricultural products. A third activity that we offer is around the container business which is an activity that we started at the end of 2014. We have placed large investments in order to build new infrastructure, which makes these new activities possible and adds new trans-boarding capacities. A fourth activity is the transport and shipment of special elements for the power industry, namely wind turbines, which are transported by ship before being taken onto the construction site by specialized trucks.
What are the investments planned by the Government to revamp your infrastructure, develop your warehousing capacities and support your expansion?
We have invested quite substantial amounts for the refurbishing of the existing port and the development of new infrastructure to keep pace with these new shipping activities and create new lines. We had about €20 million invested in the past 10 years, and we have about €9.5 million invested on the railway tracks, and about 5.5 million for the North Quay. We are also planning to accommodate a new portal crane, which will be operational by summer 2018 and will add about 30% of capacity in that dedicated area.
How is the Port of Mertert working to deliver quality, performance and always exceed expectations within its customers?
We have very highly demanding customers, and work in a very fluctuating environment. Therefore we have to be very flexible. New investments are needed to acquire new markets, and so we have to react very quickly. We are very much focused on infrastructure, and are looking forward to deliver new infrastructure projects in 2 or 3 years from now. We have to keep up pace with the other ports in the neighborhood, which are among others the ports of Thionville and Metz in France, and Trier on the other side in Germany. In that regard, we’ll be the only port with an integrated turning point for 135 meter-long ships.
Can you tell us about your efforts to promote sustainability in the transport industry?
Import and export via ships is by far the cleanest form of transportation. We are also working to further integrate the port with our railway system, which is another safe and clean transportation means. We will have the infrastructure to host the new generation of ships here which are also cleaner than the older ones.
To what extent are you trying to boost your cooperation with international players?
The Port of Mertert is connecting with the transport hub at Bettembourg, and CFL has plans to link Bettembourg to China through a train line, which should give us further possibilities. We have done lots of investments here in the port of Mertert; as well as in the new multimodal platform in Bettembourg. We are well equipped to handle all transports for the existing industries, and well as the new industries that will develop here and in the region. We have with Luxport a very competitive shipping company in Mertert, which, combined with the CFL, makes the logistics sector in Luxembourg very dynamic. With a more and more upcoming environmental awareness, I believe that ship and train transports will become even more integrated and competitive in the future as compared to lorries. Luxembourg has all the assets to position as a leader in the logistics industry, right in the heart of Europe. In a nutshell, we are very well equipped and very reactive to answer client’s needs in order to deliver high quality services.