Air freight meets sea freight

Peter Gerber and Hapag Lloyd boss Rolf Habben Jansen in dialogue.

A first in Hamburg: The heads of Germany’s biggest shipping company, Hapag Lloyd, and the largest freight airline in the country, Lufthansa Cargo, have met for the first time. In front of journalists, politicians and businessmen, Rolf Habben Jansen and Peter Gerber spent a good 90 minutes discussing the shared and different challenges faced by both industries. There were around 100 guests, including a man who knows both companies very well: Jürgen Weber, the long-standing Lufthansa boss and then chairman of the supervisory board, also chaired the supervisory board of the traditional Hamburg company until 2014.
The two company bosses found they had plenty in common, especially when it came to demand-oriented infrastructure. While air freight suffers as a result of restricted operating hours, access to the ports is crucial for the shipping industry, explained Habben Jansen: “Without the deepening of the Elbe, it will be difficult to get big ships to Hamburg in the long-term.”

Both managers see real potential in digitalisation. As well as increased efficiency through digitalisation of internal processes, Gerber was confident of increasingly being able to benefit from growing levels of e-commerce through companies such as Amazon. “Customers want the products they have ordered online as quickly as possible, and this is a real opportunity for air freight.”

It was very much noticed that both chairmen also expressed concerns about the massive decline in oil prices, although both companies include fuel prices among their biggest overheads. Peter Gerber stressed that the dramatic fluctuations were difficult for the whole market and made long-term planning more difficult. Habben Jansen made it clear that he would be in favour of a slightly higher oil price: the rock-bottom oil price can, according to him, often lead to irrational decisions in the market and result in increased levels of excess capacity.
The chairmen were given good marks by the leading logistics media. Early this morning, DVZ editor in chief Harald Ehren wrote: “There is always a thing about firsts. The first love. The first day at a new job. There is so much to go wrong. Yesterday, everything went right for Peter Gerber, CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board at Lufthansa Cargo, and Hapag-Lloyd CEO Rolf Habben Jansen when they met at the latter’s premises on Ballindamm in Hamburg. Even though the ‘Air freight meets sea freight’ dialogue was the first time they had ever spoken. And anyone who thought the two logistics disciplines had nothing in common would have learnt something: the major issues of the unpredictable economy, fuel prices and the old favourite of competition are all the same. The issue of how two German carriers could remain competitive in their home hubs, i.e. the airport hubs and seaports, into the future given night-flight restrictions and difficulties accessing the ports (keyword: Elbe deepening) was tackled in depth as part of the interesting dialogue and subsequent discussion with the audience.”