Busy times ahead for Port Esbjerg as both opportunities and challenges are aplenty

A lot has happened at Port Esbjerg since the beginning of the year, including the signing of the Esbjerg Declaration and the designation of Port Esbjerg as a NATO maritime hub. At Port Esbjerg’s Annual Meeting on 24 June, it was clear that busy times and opportunities are to be expected – along with challenges to be overcome.

Though a beautiful summer’s day, more than a hundred people attended the Annual Meeting of Port Esbjerg, which was held at the Esbjerg Concert Hall on 24 June. 

First to take the floor was Port Esbjerg’s new chairman, Søren Gade, who thanked his predecessor for passing on a well-run port and then went on to review the past year’s favourable financial performance.

Then he shifted his focus to 2022.

“Though only halfway through, the current year has already brought as many highlights as we’d normally experience in a whole year,” said Gade, and he continued:

“The signing of the Esbjerg Declaration on 18 May was a historical event for both the port and the city. Even the most modest Esbjerg resident wouldn’t claim otherwise. All in all, we can expect thousands of new jobs in and around Esbjerg. How Denmark and Europe will deliver on the great ambitions remains uncertain, though.”

However, according to Gade, Port Esbjerg is doing everything in its power to progress the planned expansion of offshore wind power. Hundreds of millions of Danish kroner will be invested in the current financial year, with projects including a major expansion that will add 570,000 square metres to the existing port of Esbjerg.

Gade was also thrilled that the Port Esbjerg is in line to become a NATO maritime hub.

“I’m proud of the confidence that NATO has shown Esbjerg, and we’re working hard to complete the 12.8 metres deepening by spring 2024. This will also give us a competitive edge since a lot of companies have invested in large vessels that are unable to call at ports because no one has the required depth yet.”

Chairman Søren Gade talks about an already eventful 2022 for Port Esbjerg.
 

A challenging time

Even though a lot of things are going the port’s way, there are plenty of challenges as well, as Port Esbjerg CEO Dennis Jul Pedersen emphasised in his speech: production stops, increasing freight rates, supply chain bottlenecks and rising inflation.

However, Esbjerg is known for its aptitude to navigate market and historical shifts, and Port Esbjerg has four markets mapped out to which it will devote special attention going forward: offshore wind, RoRo, breakbulk and the fuels of the future.

One aspect of the port’s future development is the creation of a so-called digital twin – a digital reproduction of the port’s logistical activities, of which the attendees at the Annual Meeting were treated to a sneak peek.

“Our digital twin will be a great help not only in connection with the port expansion targeted at offshore wind, but also in optimising traffic to the RoRo terminals,” said Dennis Jul Pedersen.

The port’s focus on sustainability was another key element of the CEO’s message. All aspects of the green transition are very important to Port Esbjerg, and its Getting to Zero plan has resulted in Port Esbjerg being the first in Denmark to order a shore-to-ship power plant fuelled by hydrogen.

By way of conclusion, Dennis Jul Pedersen summed up:

“I’ve several short-term concerns, but in the long term, we’ve got many unique opportunities. I look forward to exploring these opportunities together with you.”

CEO Dennis Jul Pedersen speaks about the challenges of the coming years, but also focuses on the fact that he looks forward to bringing all the possibilities into play.
 

A notable shift in Denmark’s port policy

The next speaker was Jakob Svane, head of the secretariat at Danish Shipbrokers and Port Operators. He was in fine fettle and started by congratulating stakeholders on the designation as a NATO maritime hub and the signing of the Esbjerg Declaration and then went on to talk about a new political agreement to better protect industrial ports.

The recently adopted political agreement shows that, for the first time in many years, a majority of the Danish parliament explicitly supports the country’s industrial ports, demonstrating that there are national interests in ports.

“This is a notable shift in Denmark’s policy. The government has now the right of veto if national interests are at stake, and this provides a calmer atmosphere for port investments,” said Svane and made the audience smile when he commented:

“So we’re enjoying political fair wind as an industry. Esbjerg is enjoying political fair wind as a port. You’re enjoying political fair wind as a business community. And a fair wind makes all the difference – as everyone in Esbjerg is well aware.”

Head of the secretariat at Danish Shipbrokers and Port Operators, Jakob Svane, talks about the political tailwind that the industrial ports have gained with a recent political agreement.
 

Heads of government blown away

Before the Mayor took the floor as the last speaker of the day, two foreign guest speakers were on the agenda. Michiel Nijboer, senior consultant at Royal HaskoningDHV, talked about the effects of the ongoing energy transition for European ports, and via an online connection, Christos Chryssakis, Business Development Manager at DNV, shared his thoughts on the development of green fuels and the associated regulation.

Mayor Jesper Frost Rasmussen opened his speech by listing the many activities in Esbjerg that consolidate the city’s position as an international energy hub, including the establishment of a highly visionary heating solution, a now adopted climate plan for how the city will achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and the many climate partnerships which the local authority has entered into with companies in Esbjerg and would like to expand.

“It sounds like I’m hugging myself, but we’re in fact ahead in this field compared with other local authorities. We’re certainly a few steps ahead,” he said.

Frost Rasmussen also mentioned his new role as president of the World Energy Cities Partnership (WECP), which will hold its annual meeting in Esbjerg in October. The Mayor emphasised that he would work in the years ahead to ensure that WECP will create opportunities for companies and is not just a meeting for mayors.

Naturally, the Mayor also commented on the Esbjerg Declaration.

“It’s bound to bring challenges, but it also holds massive potential. The heads of government were slightly puzzled as to why Esbjerg was to set the stage for the declaration, but as soon as they arrived, they were blown away because they got to see for themselves that we’re playing a key role and that we’re already delivering,” said Frost Rasmussen.

In his experience, wherever he goes, Esbjerg is very much on people’s minds. And that position needs to be capitalised on as the future holds a lot of jobs and growth opportunities.

As the new chairman of Port Esbjerg put it:

“One of my colleagues in the European parliament believes we have an ‘extremely busy’ time ahead of us in Esbjerg. I couldn’t agree more. It’s an understatement typical of people from Jutland – and, would you believe it, he’s even from Zealand!”

Facts

The annual profit for Port Esbjerg for 2021 amounts to DKK 48.5 million against 45.2 million DKK in 2020. The turnover was 212 million, which is a almost 3 million more than 2020.

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