One boat, 40 drivers, 915 cars: this is how transshipment works in Bremerhaven

Image: DPA | Felipe Dulian

Several transport ships arrive in Bremerhaven every day. There are often hundreds of cars on board. BLG drivers take the vehicles to the ground.

It is still midnight when the “Cassiopeia Leader” arrives at the Bremerhaven car terminal. The huge cargo ship is carrying several hundred wagons and all of them must be removed from the ship that same day. BLG drivers are responsible for this, as they load and unload transport ships with thousands of cars every day.

Cars from all over the world.

The Cassiopeia-Leader transport ship has loaded 900 carriages, which will now have to be unloaded in one shift.

Image: Radio Bremen

Here at the car terminal you can clearly see that Germany is actually a car country: there is space for up to 70,000 cars. Every day several transport ships arrive, delivering thousands of cars to Germany or transporting them from here to all over the world.

The shift leader, Sascha Zobel, is in charge of planning the unloading and preparing the so-called “taxi drivers” for deployment. They do not take the cars off the ship themselves, but rather take the drivers themselves on board, because the distances are long. One of them is Besir Sincar, who has worked at the port for 15 years.

Downloading skills

The ship that must be unloaded in this shift belongs to the Japanese shipping company NYK-Line and has 13 decks, arranged like a normal parking lot. The 915 C-Class, which come from the Mercedes plant in South Africa, are secured with belts so that they do not slip even in storms and strong waves. The driver’s task is also to loosen these fuses, known as “tying the fuses.”

A dock worker loosens his seat belt on a ship
The workers’ task is not just to drive: first they have to loosen the seat belts of the cars.

Image: Radio Bremen

When unloading you have to be tactful: sometimes there is only 15 centimeters of space between the cars. That is why the bailiffs help so that the vehicles can leave the ship without suffering damage. To make the whole process go as smoothly and quickly as possible, a tracking system helps taxi drivers, explains Besir Sincar: “With our tablet we can see where the cars are going so we can pick them up again.”

Varied work

The sun has barely risen when Sascha Zobel makes a positive provisional assessment: “We are currently doing very well, we drive the vehicles we need every hour and in the end the ship will be empty.” “Three cars per hour: that’s how much a driver has to drive to get to his destination.

When not needed as a taxi driver, Besir Sincar is also in the scanner. Here he records the vehicles and their parking positions at the port so that his colleagues can find them later. Sincar’s favorite job, however, is on board the ship, as an usher or deck foreman, but the port worker also takes on other tasks: “It’s pure variety.”

Red numbers in BLG

But BLG is no longer doing so well at the auto terminal. Vehicle performance has decreased drastically since Corona and the company is in the red. CEO Karsten Dierks does not want to say anything specific on the matter. There are many reasons why BLG’s self-imposed goals have not been achieved.

In numerical terms, we are slightly below expectations, that can be said quite clearly.

Karsten Dierks, CEO of BLG

At the end of the shift, Besir Sincar has to do it again himself: there are not enough drivers on the ship to unload it in time. By the way, the keys always stay inside the car to avoid chaos. Cars remain at the automobile terminal for anywhere from a few hours to a month before being transported. Once the last carriage has left the “Cassiopeia Leader”, he can reload it and soon put to sea again.

More about the subject:

This topic on the program:
buten inside, November 14, 2023, 7:30 p.m.

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