Visit to the BLG Auto Terminal in Bremerhaven. We were there when the first Ora Funky Cat arrived in Germany after a long voyage from China.
Whether it's a small car, SUV or sedan. Whether petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric drive. Strictly speaking, they are almost all touring cars. At least if you also look at the period before a new vehicle is first registered. Many cars are sent from Germany to other markets, many others arrive here as imports.
The import and export of cars, but also trucks, construction vehicles and machines of all kinds, often goes through the BLG car terminal in Bremerhaven. Five so-called "RoRo" ships (roll on, roll off) can moor there. Up to 8,000 vehicles can be accommodated in the belly of the steel giants, provided they are passenger cars. Adjustable decks also allow the ships to transport large machines, such as excavators for mines. Stationary devices without their own wheels can also be loaded. Then the logisticians use special roll pallets.
Two million cars a year
Trained drivers "unload" the cargo when a ship arrives. This term means discharge. The lashings of the cars, which have to remain exactly in their position even in wind force 12, are loosened. The vehicle is then driven off the ship on its own axis via a ramp.
The logistician's computer system knows exactly which car is taken to which of the thousands of parking spaces. Empty, i.e. "deleted", ships are then driven on with export vehicles. Depending on the cargo, a ship lies at the quay wall for one to a maximum of three days before it embarks on another long journey.
The annual vehicle turnover in the Bremerhaven car terminal is around two million units a year at peak times, depending on the global economy. 65 percent are cars that go from Germany to the export markets, 35 percent are imports.
Every order is different
Every car that arrives in Bremerhaven goes through a precisely defined process. First is washing. In this way, possible transport damage can be determined by the eyes of the staff. Five fully automatic car washes on the company premises have a capacity of 800 cars per day.
Many importers whose cars touch German soil for the first time in Bremerhaven have BLG carry out further work. Floor mats and operating instructions as well as service folders are placed in the individual vehicles while they are still in the car wash. Depending on the customer's requirements, BLG can also do other work, such as the assembly of alloy wheels. Entire series of special models can be created in Bremerhaven if required, by painting roofs in a contrasting colour, gluing on decorations or installing spoilers.
Major customers such as car rental companies also use the BLG car terminal.Their fleets are mostly on all-season tires, but new cars arrive with summer tires. In this case, the mechanics in Bremerhaven reassemble the wheels. The new summer tires then come onto the market via car and tire dealers.
500 of BLG's own trucks, but also car transporters from other forwarding companies, load the new cars in Bremerhaven to bring them to car dealerships and customers. There is also a separate railway connection for the transport of vehicles by rail.
The first Ora arrive
During our visit to Bremerhaven, northern Germany shows its typical side. It will be windy and raining with low temperatures. For example, Germany received a load of new cars from China, which arrived here today after about five weeks on the high seas. Before the market launch in the coming weeks, the car freighter will have the first Ora Funky Cat in series production with it. The workers in the car terminal are exceptionally taking a short break. The tightly timed process is stopped so that we can drive one of the first Oras - a light blue specimen - over the ramp out of the ship onto land. The first drive of the Funky Cat on German soil is a few hundred meters before it stands in its place near a technical center. For him, too, the cycle begins with a wash.
A few weeks later, not only this Ora will be at one of the 140 dealers with whom the Emil Frey Group will be offering the Chinese model in Germany at the start. The importer is familiar with "travelling carriages". The Japanese brands Mitsubishi and Subaru are also part of the company's brand portfolio.
Gigantic dimensions of the parking spaces, behind them are huge cargo ships in the harbor basin: This is just as impressive when visiting Bremerhaven as the sophisticated system for import and export vehicles.