SME government to secure Danish critical infrastructure
Danske Havnes director Tine Kirk wrote this column in the daily newspaper Børsen on 29 December.
The new government must have the courage to prioritise the necessary development of Danish infrastructure and, unlike Germany, which has sold part of the Port of Hamburg to the Chinese, keep it in Danish hands. It is positive that investment in ports is included in the government's constitution.
It may sound like something in the small stuff department, but it's not.
A well-functioning, updated and secure Danish infrastructure is crucial for our food and energy security, independence and national security.
Christiansborg knows it well. The nationally financed deepening of Esbjerg Harbour, which as a NATO port is crucial to the defence alliance's efforts to ensure security in the Baltic States and on the borders with Poland and Russia, among others, was a major success.
Several other Danish ports are involved in the shipping of personnel and equipment for NATO and the Danish defence.
At the same time, commercial ports in Denmark are key points for the green transition and the fulfilment of the politically agreed, ambitious climate targets.
The Port of Esbjerg is Europe's largest offshore wind project shipping port, involved in over half of European offshore wind projects, and Odense Port is Europe's leading offshore wind production port.
The Ports of Odense and Aalborg are also home to the world's leading test centres for wind turbine nacelles and offshore wind turbine blades, LORC and Blaest.
A number of ports, from the Port of Rønne in the Baltic Sea to the Port of Aabenraa in Southern Jutland and ADP in Fredericia to Esbjerg in the west and Hanstholm and Hirtshals in Northern Jutland, are deeply involved and well advanced in CO2 capture and the development and distribution of green fuels, not least for shipping.
It just doesn't figure much in the political debate.
However, the Prime Minister must be credited with having prioritised visits to Danish ports, including during the election campaign, and she is demonstrating both knowledge and understanding of the importance of ports for Danes' everyday lives, Danish business, jobs and foreign trade.
In P1, Mette Frederiksen said immediately after her opening speech in Parliament on 4 October that we in Western Europe have been naive and we should not sell national, critical infrastructure to countries with which we do not share security interests.
I couldn't agree more!
Unfortunately, shortly afterwards, Germany sold an admittedly smaller part of the Port of Hamburg to China, which also owns the Port of Athens in Piraeus.
It is therefore gratifying that the government wants to ensure a framework for commercial investments in Danish commercial ports.
In other areas, too, there are concrete tasks for the government to address.
Not least a much-needed fast-track system of regulatory approvals so that paperwork does not take years or decades and unnecessarily delay everything from deepening of shipping channels to port extensions to offshore wind farms and green conversion.
It has been said before, but it is no use if wind farms can be approved in the future after 1 to 2 years of processing if it takes 3 to 4 years to approve the dredging of a fairway, which is a necessary prerequisite for the launching of offshore wind turbines. And even longer to approve necessary extensions to onshore port infrastructure.
A fast-track system and thus faster regulatory approvals of the infrastructure needed for the green transition requires courage. Political courage too. To say that we are investigating things sufficiently in Denmark and that we are allocating the necessary resources to the area. The ports are quite prepared to pay for faster processing themselves.
A higher degree of state co-financing in the port area is important. In the Infrastructure Plan 2035, DKK 50 million was allocated to ports. Out of DKK 160 billion. I know that funds were also set aside for access roads on the land side, but shipping channels and port areas are also infrastructure. This is recognised in our neighbouring countries where, in some places, state aid is legally granted for new shipping lanes and new port infrastructure to provide a good start for the green transition. More offshore wind and new green fuels.
The ports are owned by the municipalities, which in many cases guarantee the borrowing of the ports. A new government could also re-examine the loan conditions for ports. It is not fair that individual municipalities alone should bear the financial risk of necessary infrastructure investments for green transformation - just because they own a port of national interest.
I sincerely hope that our new government has the courage to prioritise the necessary expansion and securing of our critical infrastructure. It is not free. But the cost of not doing so is higher.