Dear politicians…

– Input from a Port Director

Dear politicians. First and foremost, I want to wish you all a good election. Strong, local forces willing to run for our local democracy are important. Thank you.

In addition, I want to share my thoughts with the political leadership about to run the city council of Kolding for the next four years. I hope my input may contribute to a better dialogue and understanding between those of us running businesses and you politicians, setting the framework that we must work – or phase out – under.

Let me start by giving a short introduction to who I am:

My name is Palle Mogensen. I am 53 years old, Director of Port Activities for H. Daugaard, citizen of Kolding, married to Rikke and father of two grown children. Since 2007, I have been a member of the board of directors and co-owner of the H. Daugaard Group.

H. Daugaard was established long before my time, back in 1915. For 106 years, H. Daugaard has been an active part of the development of Kolding and the city’s industries. In 2021, we employ a total of 260 staff in our group, and we expect a turnover of app. 360 m DKK.

The transport industry thinks in chains

In the transport industry, we are used to thinking in chains. When we transport cargo – e.g. building material from a manufacturer to a building site, we have to make a chain of operators work together.

The sender informs us when to collect the cargo. We must combine that time and that freight with the rules for driving and resting time of our drivers as well as all our other customers requiring collection and deliveries of cargo on that exact day. Sometimes, we need to bring the cargo via our warehouse for repacking and distribution to several building sites. To do this, our warehouse staff must be ready to initiate repacking and loading of new trucks with drivers that are rested. From here, delivery takes place to the agreed building sites with consideration of the work schedule of each site, i.e. the supplies cannot be delivered too early or too late. It is like a relay in which each party must handle a part of the job to ensure that the chain does not break.

I hope you politicians will be inspired by this picture.

When you are leading Kolding, you will be part of a chain of operators ensuring that the municipality of Kolding is interesting and an attractive area in which to run a business. Or a part of a chain making investing in Kolding risky and unsafe.

All links of the chain are crucial

I often meet people in Kolding who think that all our buildings in the port have been built and are owned by the port of Kolding. But that is not reality.

The land is owned by the port of Kolding, and the municipality of Kolding is the registered owner of the port of Kolding, and thereby the land on which the buildings have been erected. The companies, however, are the ones having invested several hundred million of Danish kroner in construction material, equipment, and productions lines based on land lease contracts. Formally, this also means that the city council has the power to make a new decision, terminate all of us lease holders and instead grant permissions to build residential housing on the land to new lease holders.

But the city council does not hold power over the entire chain of operators and activities necessary for the municipality of Kolding to enjoy a rich and sustainable business community, much less a suitable influx of new residents to the municipality. Just as us, you can only exert power over a single link of the chain. A link that holds no value unless it is attached to the remaining links of the chain.

Together, we can ensure a chain of growth, workplaces, regional development, and a sustainable community.

Individually, we cannot achieve much.

As director and co-owner of a business in the port of Kolding, most people can relate to the stressful conditions that followed when doubts were cast as far as the future of the port was concerned. To me, it not only felt as if someone had a wish to expropriate my house. For one, an expropriation would entail a financial compensation, so that my wife and I could resettle somewhere else. Secondly, I have a vain hope that my wife would actually resettle alongside me.

When the discussion involves closing or moving companies, such as the one represented by me, it not only brings uncertainty for me as Director and co-owner. It brings uncertainty for all our staff. And even though I am proud to say that H. Daugaard has many highly skilled and loyal workers, I do not hope in vain that they would resettle with the workplace somewhere else at any cost – much less being willing or able to finance a resettlement.

A closure of H. Daugaard’s activities in the port could very well be the end of H. Daugaard.

And that brings us back to the chain.

Social responsibility

Currently, H. Daugaard employs 150 full time staff in Kolding. In addition, you can add three flexi workers (light duty jobs), seven trainees and 11 afternoon workers / young students. 171 people in Kolding would lose their jobs if H. Daugaard were to close.

But then the jobs would just move to another city, you may think. And yes, many of them would move. Move to other cities and other municipalities. But it would not be without a price to pay for Kolding, each individual worker, or our customers. A part of a chain would disappear and have to be replaced for the cogs to turn again.

Add to this the subsequent implications. The customers of H. Daugaard would receive a worse transport solution – which in turn would affect their production and sales options. I know this because we are in a highly competitive industry. If our customers could get better options, they would have already chosen those options. The many local subcontractors of H. Daugaard would lose a customer. And our flexi workers, trainees and student workers would find themselves in a very difficult situation – a situation that you, as representatives of the municipality and politicians would not easily be able to rectify within your link of the chain.

Green responsibility

Far from Kolding, in Glasgow, COP 26 is being held right now. But this does not mean that Kolding is irrelevant in terms of green transition. Kolding has adopted a sustainability strategy and is working ambitiously with the implementation of circular economy. An effort which requires courage, action, and endurance.

COP 26 journalists in Glasgow report how world leaders agree unanimously that action must be taken NOW. The climate challenges must be taken seriously NOW, if we are to save our Earth before it is too late.

The journalists can, however, also report how promising words turn to empty cliches, when it is time to turn words into action. No one is interested in making his/her contribution to the efforts when own workplaces, lifestyle or economy are affected.

Dear politicians, don’t let this be the story of Kolding’s sustainability strategy.

Danish ports – and our port in Kolding – are among the most efficient and green ports in the world. And even though it is easy to produce statistics of pollution from shipping, it is also necessary to look at the entire chain. What is the current alternative to sea freight? Planes, trains, or trucks. Representing a transport company with a large fleet of own trucks, naturally I cannot speak badly of road transport. The fact is, however, that if we calculate the amount of cargo that can be transported by ship, it is most often the most environmentally friendly transport over large distances. In addition, it is also the only route of transport with the capacity necessary. Neither motorways nor railroads in Europe have sufficient available capacity to replace transport by sea.

For these reasons, closing ports in Denmark or Europe is not a realistic or sustainable solution.

Some may ask if the port of Kolding could then not just be closed? But then we lay the responsibility on the shoulders of other people – just as the many world leaders in Glasgow ask themselves and each other if someone else could carry responsibility for the green transition.

Not in my opinion. We are all links of the chain, and we must all be part of the solution. Let us be brave, persistent, and resourceful about green transition in Kolding.

One of the types of cargo having created a lot of discussions related to the port of Kolding is the transport of metal for recycling.

I have visited most of Europe’s steel plants over the previous 30 years – and I can honestly say that I am extremely proud of the way we handle scrap metal in the port of Kolding. In Kolding, we naturally must take responsibility for our metal waste, transporting it from Kolding by ship to not impact the environment and the European road network, shipping it for recycling in the steel plants of southern Europe, where it is recast and returned as steel beams for the building trade and industry in northern Europe.

This product is 100% reusable – a characteristic, we miss in many other products. We must dare see the beauty in that.

Of course, I do not mean that we, as actors in the port, have no interest in optimization and refining our handling of metal scrap together with the port of Kolding. I do, however, believe that the discussion about removing all handling of metal waste from the port of Kolding is a flawed discussion. In Kolding, we should not be talking about what we can avoid doing for a green transition, we should not hand over responsibility to other municipalities and operators, and we must not shame products and industries, which benefit ourselves, and upon which the growth and development of our municipality depends directly.

Lifting together is part of being a link in the chain

In my opinion, H. Daugaard deserves no credit for being socially responsible, actively participating in the development and growth of Kolding or for making an effort in the green transition. I truly believe that it is a natural part of being a link in a chain made up of our city, municipality, and community.

We must all carry our part of the responsibility for the chain – across citizens, companies, municipality, and political leadership. Together, we can create solutions to all the challenges we must handle as a city, municipality, and community. Individually, we cannot achieve much.

For this reason, I hope that you, as representatives of a new city council, will safeguard the chain, maintaining decency and a good dialogue. Have a good election – we look forward to working together with you all.