Full steam ahead!

A development concept for the Rhine docklands in Karlsruhe

Major changes in goods transport and logistics have had an effect on inland waterways and docks. This is especially visible in the excess capacity in shipping cargo areas, the growing desolation of docklands as a result of shutdowns and relocations, structural changes in the service portfolio of inland docks, and the intensifying conversion of docklands into residential and leisure facilities. Karlsruhe Rhine Harbors, the shipyard division of Karlsruhe Supply, Transport and Harbor (KVVH), called on the Sinsheim-based Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability to come up with a long-term dockland development concept.

The starting point for the project was a basic analysis of inland shipping and dockland concepts conducted as part of a general transport projection for the region of Baden-Württemberg. This report projected a growth potential of over 80% in the dockland area of Karlsruhe/Wörth by 2025. The Steinbeis experts were challenged with the task of creating a dockland development concept outlining the conditions for future goods and cargo volume handling. The concept should also bolster the image of the Rhine docks as a hotspot for industry and logistics in the long term, create space for businesses, and foster potential to add value.

To kick off the project, a detailed analysis of the docks, vessels mooring in the docks and the general infrastructure was carried out. The standing of the docks in Karlsruhe was gauged using benchmark data relating to general local facilities and projected trends. Expert interviews with business representatives were an important element of this analysis. Next, problems faced by businesses at the docklands were identified, including commercial and location infrastructure issues as well as factors relating to connections to the general transport infrastructure. The third key action point covered by the project was the preparation of concrete strategic recommendations in the form of a long-term dockland development concept.

The Steinbeis team concluded that freeing up (available) space is crucial to coping with the volume of goods projected to flow through Karlsruhe’s Rhine docks. The analysis showed a dearth of free space for commercial use. Several approaches would help increase space, such as dockland managers continuing to proactively manage space. Another action would involve entering discussion with operators of vessels that use the docks but have not been on- and offloading goods. They should be shown the options for relocating their place of business. Most importantly, fallow areas within the docklands should be brought back into use.

One way to strengthen the Rhine docks would be to launch an innovative service portfolio spanning combined road and inland waterway transportation, for example by positioning suitable services on the market through a collaboration with the neighboring dockland operators in Strasbourg/Lauterbourg and Wörth. The goal of these measures would be to secure container transport in Karlsruhe’s Rhine docks in the long term and gradually step up container volumes over the next few years. Completion of the Saône-Moselle/Saône-Rhine project on the French side of the border should connect the Mediterranean region with the Rhine and Moselle rivers via the Rhône. This canal project would create a new inland waterway connection towards the South and the Mediterranean countries. If the proposal goes ahead, this could open the door to further developments in the Rhine docklands – not only by launching new transport links but also by creating new warehousing and contract logistics services.

The Rhine docks in Karlsruhe provide the city and the surrounding area with a crucial logistics window to the outside world, plus a multiplicity of innovative, international trading companies and manufacturing businesses. These use the docklands as a base for controlling their business activities. Moreover, the businesses in the docks play an important role in safeguarding and creating jobs. Recognizing their economic significance, the Steinbeis experts recommended further expansion of the Rhine docks in Karlsruhe. The advantages offered by the location should also be strengthened in the long term.

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