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Interview: Logistics and Mobility in Times of Crisis

What effect does Corona have on mobility and traffic? We talked about the positive and negative aspects with our HSBA expert Prof. Dr. Jan Ninnemann, Academic Head BSc Logistics Management.

What impact does the corona crisis have on traffic in Hamburg, Germany and the wider world?  

The transport sector is feeling the effects of the corona crisis in its entirety. Commuter traffic has been drastically reduced as a huge amount of people work from home these days. Leisure and business travel traffic has come to a virtual standstill. This leads to corresponding repercussions for transport companies. Deutsche Bahn reports capacity utilisation of less than 10 % in some long-distance traffic cases. Lufthansa has 90 % of its fleet on the ground and announces a loss of billions of Euros in the first quarter.   

What does that do to mobility? Will everyone now switch to bicycles and travel less long-distance?  

It is true that since the beginning of the Corona crisis, there has been a change in mobility behaviour. Instead of using public transport, people often use their own car. Car sharing services and new mobility providers such as MOIA also feel the effects of Corona as there are significantly lower user numbers. For many, the risk of infection plays a very important role in their choice of transport. Due to the warm climate bicycles are one of the winners of the Corona crisis. Long-distance travel is currently simply not an option and therefore it remains to be seen when and to what extent there will be a revival here.  

What will change in the long term? And what does that mean for work and higher eductation? Will we be less mobile in future, working more form home, using video calling and online teaching?  

The Corona crisis will change our work. Going forward, there will be less reluctancy to work from home, to hold conferences via video and so forth compared to how it used to be. Questions such as "do I really have to drive to the office every day" and "do I have to put up with a 5-hour drive for a 2-hour meeting" are likely to be asked more frequently after Corona. For the transport sector, this means that we may not reach the pre-crisis level again, for example in the areas of public transport and air travel.    

What impact will Corona have on freight transport? Is it an option to have more products manufactured in Germany and Europe again in future?  

The current crisis shows that global supply chains are "vulnerable". The question of a partial relocation back to Europe is likely to come up, especially in the case of strategically important components or spare parts as well as basic materials for products such as pharmaceuticals. This will have respective consequences on global supply chains, which will also affect Hamburg as a port and logistics location. The freight transport sector, parcel services in particular, are currently benefiting from the Corona crisis, as significantly more goods are being ordered online than usual.  

Are there  any overall positive effects? Will there be any positive impact on digitalisation and sustainability?

There are definitely also positive effects from this crisis. The necessity to seek new, mostly digital solutions, to adapt processes and, in some cases, to streamline them due to contact restrictions has shown that many companies still have room for improving their efficiency levels. It is to be hoped that the right conclusions will be drawn from the crisis and that Corona-driven process adjustments will stay.

Prof. Dr. Jan Ninnemann
Prof. Dr. Jan Ninnemann

After his studies at Universität Hamburg and Bordeaux Business School, Jan Ninnemann obtained a Graduate Diploma in Maritime and Port Management at the National University of Singapore and completed his doctorate in Hamburg on the topic of seaport competition in Europe.

After gaining initial professional experience in various consulting positions, in 2008 Professor Ninnemann founded Hanseatic Transport Consultancy together with Dr. Thomas Rössler, a strategy and management consultancy firm for transport, traffic and logistics. He volunteers as a member of the Executive Committee of Deutsche Verkehrswissenschaftliche Gesellschaft (DVWG, German Association of Transport Sciences).

His research focus is on maritime logistics chains. Thanks to his research activities, he has acquired expert knowledge in the field of seaport competition, seaport hinterland traffic and digitization in the maritime industry. In addition, Professor Ninnemann is engaged in topics related to inner city delivery logistics (last mile).