Uncertainty remains over the purchase of part of Hamburg’s Container Terminal Tollerort (CTT) by Cosco.
Port operator HHLA told The Loadstar German and EU authorities would decide whether Cosco should be allowed to purchase a 35% stake in CTT, which, though small compared with Hamburg’s other box terminals, is well-connected with the hinterland by rail.
Last month, Germany’s climate and economy minister, Robert Habeck, said he was “disinclined to allow the acquisition to take place”.
Calling for a stance of “no more naivety” in future dealings with Beijing, he added: “We cannot allow ourselves to be blackmailed… if [the Chinese market] were to close… we would have extreme sales problems.”
Concerns have arisen over Chinese ownership of European infrastructure more than once since Cosco’s acquisition of a controlling 67% stake in the Greek port of Piraeus, of which 16% is held in escrow.
Scepticism over Chinese ownership of key European logistics infrastructure appears to be written into the remit of the 2020 EU framework for screening of foreign direct investment (FDI).
At the time it came into effect, EVP Valdis Dombrovskis said the EU “is ,and will remain, open to foreign investment… but this openness is not unconditional.
“To respond to today’s economic challenges, safeguard key European assets and protect collective security, EU member states and the commission need to be working closely together. If we want to achieve an open strategic autonomy, having an efficient EU-wide investment screening cooperation is essential. We are now well equipped for that.”
But Axel Mattern, CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing, has been outspoken in his disagreement with Mr Habeck, saying the purchase was “a business matter, outside of the government’s purview”.
And he said recently: “Strategic planning and port shares are totally different things. We want to do business, not politics.”
According to Mr Mattern: “We need, and have so far had, good relations with the Chinese in trade, transport and logistics, which helps both sides understand and learn from each other better. The logistics cooperation between Hamburg and China is very important, not only for the two countries, but also for the global supply chain.”
An EC spokesperson told The Loadstar the screening process would be kept “entirely confidential” and would not clarify whether Cosco’s acquisition of part of CTT fell within the jurisdiction of EC’s specially devised framework.
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