Germany’s HGK Shipping, one of Europe’s top inland shipping names and compatriot Salzgitter, the country’s second-largest steelmaker, have combined forces to promote and develop low-emission logistics chains for inland waterways and “establish them as the norm”.
HGK and two subsidiaries of Salzgitter – Salzgitter Flachstahl and DEUMU-Deutsche Erz- und Metall-Union – have penned a memorandum of understanding with the aim of focusing on setting up and developing paired transport operations to generate return loads in order to prevent empty runs and optimise the use of the shipping space that is available.
While Salzgitter Flachstahl (SZFG) has specialised in manufacturing flat steel products for vehicle and pipe manufacturers and the building industry, for example, DEUMU recycles scrap steel, metals and alloys and acts as a trader.
Salzgitter companies operating within the group are linked to the inland waterway system at numerous business sites, with vessels already carrying more than 1m tonnes of its steel along Europe’s waterways every year, and the company said that this share could be further enhanced “if the right conditions are put in place”.
“Up to now, this has attracted little attention in the public debate and perception when experts discuss the subject of introducing a transport revolution and easing the pressure on roads. However, inland waterway shipping is already one of the most sustainable means of transport and is absolutely essential for the steel industry. It offers the potential for increasing the volumes that are transported in the short and medium term,” noted Fabian Gerdes, head of customer logistics at SZFG.
The duo will also be involved in the Seafar pilot project to test partially autonomous inland waterway shipping operations in Germany. To this end, dry cargo ships, which HGK Shipping uses to and from Salzgitter, are being refitted with technology to allow remote control operations from land.