Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the name of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, I would like to welcome you to the Blue Economy Business and Science Forum. We are very pleased that the European Commission has chosen Hamburg for this first summit meeting on the Blue Economy and Blue Science.
The sea is one of the first resources man learned to use. It has always been the subject of enormous economic and political interest. Over the course of many centuries, it has also been the cause of armed conflicts, especially in Europe. It was the conflicts between the maritime powers Spain and Portugal and the still young nation of the Netherlands that therefore led to initial consideration of an international law of the sea.
In 1609, Hugo Grotius wrote the following in his book Mare Liberum: “Every nation is free to travel to every other nation, and to trade with it.” Today international maritime law is based on the “United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea” (UNCLOS). Adopted in 1982, this contract could only be ratified in 1994. Since 1996, Hamburg has been the seat of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITOS). At least this is true geographically. Legally, the property and the building of the ITOS is international domain.
In regard to customs law, the spot where the Blue Economy - Business and Science Forum is now meeting was also international property: the imposing former granary in which the Maritime Museum is now housed. Kaispeicher B was built in 1878 and is the oldest building at the Port of Hamburg. With its striking architecture, it documents the expansion and the modernisation of port operations. At that time – at the end of the 19th century, when all of Europe was being shaped by the beginnings of industrialisation – Hamburg reached two decisions that were fundamental and important for the maritime economy: Hamburg decided on an open tidal port that makes it possible for ships to gain direct access to the city without any locks. And they made a large part of the port into a duty-free zone. This included the Kaispeicher as well as the Speicherstadt, the warehouse district located right on the other side.
This free access to the sea and its openness to international trade made Hamburg into a cosmopolitan city. Today the Hamburg Speicherstadt is a World Heritage Site. And the role the free-trade harbour played for Hamburg is now played significantly better by the European Union and the world’s most successful free-trade zone it supports, so to speak.
The fact that Hamburg has been able to maintain its position as an international trade location up to the present day also – and especially – has to do with its access to the European Single Market. Just as Hamburg defended the free-trade harbour in the Hanseatic tradition, today we are passionate Europeans. The European Single Market and the freedom of movement granted to more than 500 million EU citizens is one of the greatest achievements of the European Union. The elimination of border controls and the fundamental freedoms, supported by a common currency, have increased the opportunities available to innumerable men and women in Europe.
Even if these freedoms seem to be taken for granted by most people, it is imperative to defend them again and again. We must defend them politically through a joint European foreign and security policy and by showing our unequivocal commitment to freedom of movement for workers. But we can and should also defend them with the help of economic policy that creates jobs and prosperity for our citizens, and in particular also provides perspectives for young people.
It is extremely commendable that the European Union supports these objectives through concrete measures that further strengthen the maritime economy, the Blue Economy. We see enormous innovation potentials in this area, especially in Hamburg.
Due to innovations that have led to the industrial maturity of offshore wind turbines, the energy turnaround has become an option on which a highly industrialised country like Germany is also able to rely. The offshore wind energy industry has made Hamburg into Europe’s wind capital. Understanding maritime ecosystems and agreements designed to protect them are also part of the Blue Economy and Science. The European Wadden Sea region shows us how a successful coexistence of nature conservation, tourism and business can be achieved.
The innovation potential of maritime research is wide-ranging. Sometimes it brings the sea right to our front door: For example, when the energy needs of a household are met by the photosynthesis of algae. Cutting-edge research in Hamburg is also dedicated to the sea, such as that conducted at the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services. Furthermore, Hamburg is a member of the German Marine Research Consortium and supports the Hamburg Ship Model Basin. Hamburg companies are working on innovative approaches in approximately a dozen EU projects.
A major concern for Germany is that of strengthening small and medium-sized companies. Hamburg is accomplishing this very successfully through cluster policy. The maritime cluster comprises the five northern German coastal states and by now networks 180 members from business, science and politics. It is accompanied by the suitable training and ongoing education of skilled workers.
The basis of the Blue Economy in Hamburg is also provided by the traditional maritime economic sectors. Hamburg is Germany’s anchor in the global economy and Europe’s third largest container port. More than 155,000 jobs in the metropolitan region depend on it. And measures aimed at air pollution control, such as our shoreside electrical power sources for cruise ships, are naturally also part of the maritime economy.
Hamburg is also one of the world’s leading locations for shipping and shipbuilding. Shipping companies, shipbrokers and agents, shipping financers, and shipping-related service providers and institutions generate approximately 4.1 billion euros. This location is distinguished by a great variety and concentration in all subsections of the shipping industry. As a shipping location, Hamburg holds second place, after Singapore and before Rotterdam and Oslo.
In view of the great potentials resulting from digitalisation, the increase in knowledge, and the enormous abilities of modern technology, the industrial nations must again decide on an opening to the sea. The Blue Economy - Business and Science Forum will provide the right boost for this.
The European Commission, which is often symbolically referred to as a “locomotive” because it provides important impulses, has proven to be exceptionally seaworthy here. Much like a tugboat, whose powerful engine enables it to manoeuvre other large ships in the port
and pull them out to the sea, they are able to guide science and research, education and business development, politics and specialized authorities into a position which will permit new perspectives to be opened up.
This also applies from a global perspective: 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the seas. If one nation should operate alone, it would be like a nutshell in a storm. It is only European collaboration that provides a clear road map in international competition – and especially in the huge sea of the Blue Economy.