The Mayor of Esbjerg: Port Esbjerg’s international standing has shifted up a gear

According to Mayor Jesper Frost, Port Esbjerg has changed gear internationally. He has just returned from an export tour in the United States with the top of the Danish government, where Port Esbjerg was hailed as a model to follow. At the same time, Port Esbjerg has signed an agreement with five top offshore wind ports in Europe. International collaboration is now item one in Port Esbjerg’s dialogue with port colleagues.

Port Esbjerg has just taken the initiative to formalise its collaboration with five key offshore wind ports in northern Europe, with a view to drawing on each other’s experience to resolve as quickly as possible the capacity issues that the ports face following the signing of the Esbjerg Declaration.

The partners of the alliance are Port Esbjerg, Port of Ostend in Belgium, Groningen Seaports/Eemshaven in the Netherlands, Niedersachsen Ports/Cuxhaven in Germany, Nantes-Saint Nazaire Port in France and Humber in the UK.

“We’re taking an international perspective,” says Esbjerg’s mayor, Jesper Frost, about the change of gears that he believes has taken place at Esbjerg.

He returned recently from the United States himself, where he was invited by the Danish government to present Europe’s leading offshore wind port to the US Congress as part of a green export initiative. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was one of the other faces in the audience, while Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), Ørsted, Vestas, Topsøe, Esvagt, Granly as well as industry organisations such as the Confederation of Danish Industry, the Danish Chamber of Commerce, Green Power Denmark and Energinet were also present.  

“When I’m asked to be the first speaker after our Prime Minister and get the opportunity to speak to a hundred people in the US Congress in front of politicians and representatives from US companies, there’s no doubt that Port Esbjerg’s international standing has been raised. We’ve gone from being a port that’s talked about in Denmark to a port that’s talked about internationally,” Frost explains.

Mayor of Esbjerg Jesper Frost presents Europe’s leading offshore wind port, Port Esbjerg, to the US Congress as part of a green export initiative. 

Biggest platform

Frost argues that in this way, the port also plays an important role for Denmark in general:

“It’s hard to imagine a bigger platform than that. The United States is facing a huge undertaking with offshore wind; northeast of New York, they’re embarking on a 30 GW project, and that’s just the first of many.”

This is particularly relevant, because there are 250 companies at Esbjerg that are highly experienced in offshore wind.

“We’ve already got nacelles at the port, while in the United States, they’re talking about getting it,” he adds.

The hope is that Danish companies operating at the port will win contracts. The Granly Group was on the tour, because it is planning to set up a US division.

“It might end up being a Danish export success story,” says Frost, emphasising that many Danish companies either plan to set up divisions themselves or enter into consortia with US companies.  

“The Esbjerg Declaration has also been noticed in Washington and New York. But the current shift in Port Esbjerg’s international standing is built on years of hard work at the port,” Frost explains.

Collaboration with other offshore wind ports

Almost at the same time as the tour of the United States, Port Esbjerg announced that it had spearheaded a unique international collaboration.

The six leading offshore wind ports in northern Europe have agreed to meet twice a year and increase their collaboration. This alliance is intended to help solve the capacity issues that the ports are experiencing.

The Esbjerg Declaration dramatically increased the target for offshore wind in Europe. Germany, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands have set a common target to deliver at least 65 GW of offshore wind by 2030, and that will put pressure on European ports. 

The expanded collaboration builds on an existing agreement previously entered into by Port Esbjerg under the Green Port Hull initiative.

“The current geopolitical situation in Europe requires us to install even more turbines. Fast. The Esbjerg Declaration demonstrates that working together can take us far. We must now extend our collaboration and also activate it at an operational and practical level,” says Port Esbjerg CEO Dennis Jul Pedersen.

Jul Pedersen argues that it is about supporting each other on practical issues, but it is also about sending a signal to the market that the ports are willing to do everything to accelerate the green transition with offshore wind. That is why they have stepped up direct collaboration with other offshore wind ports.

“Ambitious targets are all well and good, but we also need someone to listen to us and understand that there are limits to what we, as ports, can achieve with our current capacity. We believe that by sharing our experiences, we’ll be able to speed up the process, and by putting collective pressure on politicians, we can help find solutions to the massive capacity issues we’re dealing with,” Jul Pedersen explains.

The six ports shook hands on the agreement when they met at WindEnergy Hamburg in September.

Ports sharing insights and knowledge

In concrete terms, the agreement provides for representatives from the six ports to meet twice a year to discuss relevant issues and share insights and knowledge. They may, for example, collaborate on getting around shortages of space: If one port only has space for half a project, another port may have space for the other half. This way, the offshore wind farm can be built as scheduled and the client will not have to wait for space at one particular port.

This is a solution that Port Esbjerg has already used very successfully with Groningen Seaports/Eemshaven in the Netherlands, a port from which 18 offshore wind farms have been shipped.

“We’re now joining forces to find the best solutions for optimising the ports in the offshore industry. Collectively, we can be regarded as serious partners in achieving the European targets,”   says Erik Bartholet, Business Manager, Logistics and Offshore Wind of Groningen Seaport/Eemshaven, one of the new partners of the alliance.

Representatives from the six ports will meet for the first time in Esbjerg later this year.

“It’s a very strong move by Port Esbjerg to bring together the ports that play a key role in the North Sea, and overall it’s a super strong alliance. Another indication that Port Esbjerg adopts an international perspective,” says Mayor Frost.

At the same time, collaborative measures with other Danish ports, such as Aarhus and Odense, to secure the wind industry’s attention have been downgraded.

“We’ve never had a formal arrangement with other Danish ports, but a good dialogue. Now we’re focusing our efforts on international collaboration,” says Frost.

Esbjerg back on the agenda – now in Vietnam

Before long, Frost will once again be representing Esbjerg and the companies at the port. On 1 November, he will be travelling to Vietnam with HRH Prince Frederik and HRH Princess Mary, where another green energy drive will be taking place at the port of Hai Phong. Frost will again speak about Port Esbjerg’s experiences.

“In addition, we’ve just hosted the World Energy Cities Partnership, welcoming delegations from all over the world. No less than twenty delegates from Houston alone, for example. It just emphasises that Port Esbjerg’s international standing has shifted up a gear,” Frost concludes.

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