The last episode of the Study Tour 2014 takes place in the beautiful city of Hamburg, the second largest city of Germany. What we as transport students already knew, is that the Port of Hamburg is the main port of Germany and the third largest port in Europe, right after Rotterdam and Antwerp. The German city may be nearly 100 km from the coast, the river Elbe has allowed it to grow to be third port in Europe.
Besides the Port of Hamburg, there is another significant economic unit in the city: Airbus. Hamburg is along with Toulouse and Seattle an important location of the civil aerospace industry. The Study Tour will visit both important units in Hamburg. Hopefully we can learn more about their logistical challenges!
On Thursday we continued our journey to Hamburg. So far, everything during the Study Tour went well. But the day before departure to Hamburg, we had a little problem with the bus: the bus didn’t work anymore. We had a crisis moment in the Study Tour committee, because the original plan was to depart from Malmo to Hamburg at 6 o’clock in the morning. The visit to Airbus was planned in the afternoon on the same day, so we had a very tight schedule. Luckily, the bus driver called us around midnight to tell us that the bus is repaired and that we could depart the next morning at 6 o’clock.
On our way from Copenhagen to Helsingborg, we took the ferry to make the crossing. On our way back from Malmo to Hamburg, we crossed the Oresund bridge. The view of such a large civil infrastructure work was an impressive view in the early morning.
In the afternoon, we visited the Airbus final assembly plant in Hamburg, located in the port area. Here are the final assembly lines for the A320 series and the A380. The aircrafts are here equipped with cabin interiors and they are painted according to the wishes of its customers. It takes approximately 10 days to paint the A380’s surface area. The final completion and delivery of A380’s for customers in Europe and the Middle-East take place in Hamburg. Customers in Africa, Asia and the Americas are served from the delivery center of Toulouse.
The participants of the Study Tour were given a tour through the production facilities, guided by former Airbus employees. Also two Phd students from the University of Hamburg joined the guided tours, to tell us more about the logistical aspects. It was very impressive to see the whole final assembly line of the huge aircrafts: from assembling different components of an aircraft to painting the complete aircrafts to the right colors. The logistical challenge here is to not miss any component during the production line.
Unfortunately it was not allowed to take any pictures on the plant.
For us, the most interesting parts are the logistical aspects of such a huge operation. Not only the logistics during production line, but also the logistics on the way to final assembly. Different components come from different factories in Europe (France, Spain, UK and Germany). These aircraft parts are transported between the factories by the “Beluga”, a specially enlarged jet, capable of carrying entire sections of fuselage of Airbus aircraft. Only the A380 parts are too large to be transported by the Beluga: these parts are transported by ship. Special ships are used to carry sections of A380 from production sites in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. Each site produces completely equipped sections, which are transported by sea, river and road to final assembly.
The second company visit in Hamburg was the visit to port terminal of Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA), a German logistics and transportation company. The firm operates three container terminals at the Port of Hamburg. We visited Altenwerder, the terminal for cargo handling and transport services by rail, road and sea. The two Phd students of the University of Hamburg also joined us during the guided tour through the terminal, together with a few other ICT students from the University of Hamburg. The guided tour was given by an employee of the HHLA, who knew a lot about the terminal operations and its facilities. She was able to answer all detailed questions from the participants. Everybody was very exciting during the tour, none of us have ever been so close to port operations and facilities before. Unfortunately it was not allowed to leave the bus or to take any pictures. As highlight we witnessed the turnabout of a large container ship, done by two tugboats.
With the visit to Hamburg’s two main economic units, the Study Tour has come to an end. We have seen 3 different countries, visited 9 companies in 8 days. The program was very varied, to meet the interests of all participants. We learned about railway systems, aircrafts, large infrastructure projects and container transport by sea, land and rail. We discussed policy aspects in large infrastructure projects, design aspects in railway systems, sustainability aspects in logistics, engineering aspects in port terminals and operational aspects in container transport. The Study Tour has offered many opportunities for further careers in the exciting world of transport and logistics!