Slowly but surely, Hamburg is being passed down the list of the most important ports.

In Europe, Rotterdam and Antwerp have long passed, internationally Hamburg just managed to come in 20th place depend on logistics in Hamburg.

Neither is the case so far.

Susanne Preuss

Business correspondent in Hamburg.

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With Melanie Leonhard as the new Economics Senator in Hamburg, that should change.

"Rotterdam and Antwerp are competing ports that benefit from a national strategy," the SPD politician explains the circumstances succinctly and calls on the federal government to position itself similarly: "A significant commitment would be necessary and a commitment that Hamburg would not regional port."

In fact, the traffic light in the coalition agreement states that a national port strategy should be drawn up, but not much has happened so far.

The responsible transport minister, Wissing, did not even take part in the opening event.

Leonhard would like to have Minister of Economics Habeck in charge anyway.

It's not just about transport routes, it's about the economy and potential in energy supply.

Perennial theme Elbe silt

Melanie Leonhard stands in front of around 50 listeners in the Atlantic Hotel at the invitation of the Club of Hamburg Business Journalists, a small person with a quiet voice, who hits the first pegs here, calmly and yet clearly, barely four weeks after her appointment as the first Senator for Economics.

She sees the federal government not only as having a strategic obligation, but also very practically and in the short term when it comes to ensuring the accessibility of the port and traffic safety on the Elbe.

The silt in the Elbe is an ongoing issue.

It accumulates in the harbor and in the river's fairway and must be removed regularly so that the waterway can be used safely.

Fierce political battles have broken out over the question of where the Elbe silt can be taken, which the new Economics Senator has structured in a few sentences.

The dumping solution near the bird protection island of Scharhörn, which was rejected by the neighboring states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony, is still in play, she clarifies: It can also be approved.

Among the alternatives, she highlights the "exclusive economic zone" far out in the North Sea, for which the federal government has to reset its priorities and process the permits quickly: "Up until now, it was always said that there was no capacity, and that the earliest we would start checking was 2025 '" reports Leonard.

Now there should be a meeting with the federal government at the beginning of February.

Safe to negotiate and assertive

The federal politicians are by no means up against a political lightweight.

Melanie Leonhard, who succeeds the non-partisan former Siemens manager Michael Westhagemann as Senator for Economic Affairs, is considered to be fluent in negotiations and assertive and has a wealth of experience.

The 45-year-old historian and mother of one son has been a member of the SPD since 1999.

At that time she had completed a voluntary social year and started her studies in social and economic history.

With a doctoral scholarship, she moved to the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven, after which she worked for the investment company of entrepreneur Erck Rickmers, before taking over the management of the Harburg city history department at the Archaeological Museum Hamburg, the district in which she grew up and as a member of the district assembly first political experience.

In 2011, Melanie Leonhard was elected to the Hamburg Parliament for the first time, and in 2018 she received 95 percent of the votes in the election for SPD chairwoman of the Hanseatic city.

She had been Senator for Labour, Social Affairs, Family and Integration for three years, first in the Senate of today's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, then with Peter Tschentscher as First Mayor, with the Health Department also being part of her area of ​​responsibility since 2020.

When she left this multi-crisis office at the end of 2023 to switch to the economic authority, she is said to have cried.

There is a lot of talk about their empathy, about their ability to treat everyone as equals.

At the same time, she is considered a workhorse.

The Bild-Zeitung judged after her appointment: "Absolute playmaker, nobody can get past her." This is also noticed in Berlin.

When Defense Minister Lamprecht resigned when there were thoughts about a cabinet reshuffle, the name Melanie Leonhard is said to have been mentioned.

That Leonhard can make a difference in her new position in the economic authority is not doubted even in entrepreneurial circles that are not related to the SPD.

For many, it seems certain that Tschentscher sees Melanie Leonhard as his successor in the mayoralty.