Bild: Keystone
Bild: Keystone
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Local News Summary of January, 26th

  • Basel’s shipping industry remained stable in 2017, despite turbulence
  • UBS takes over Nordea private banking in Luxemburg
  • Baselland government “regrets” cutbacks at SDA news agency

Basel’s shipping industry remained stable in 2017, despite turbulence

The harbours along the Rhine in Basel have reported similar volumes of shipping traffic in 2017 as in the previous year, despite facing major challenges. Extremely low water levels in spring and a re-routing of traffic due to the Rastatt train incident in the autumn led to both financial gains and losses. The industry also registered another record year for container transportation. 2017 began the way 2016 had ended – with very low water levels on the Rhine. This resulted in some freight carriers being unable to transport a full load due to the lack of water below the keel. By mid-2017, the situation was back to normal, and when the Hochrhein main train route became inoperable due to a breakdown in Rastatt, the demand for ship transportation rose exponentially.

A spokesperson for the Swiss Rhine harbours (Schweizerische Rheinhäfen – SRH) announced on Thursday however that there had been “a new all-time high” in ship-transfer container transportation in 2017: The three Basel harbours shipped a total of 119,231 container units (TEU), representing a 4,1 per cent increase compared to 2016. There were less container transports by rail because of the closure of the Oberrhein main train route, which lasted for several weeks. This caused difficulties with re-routing on land. Nevertheless, the overall result of 134,342 train-transferred TEU (an increase of 2,1 per cent) presents a new record. The cargo trains may have stood still, but ship transports were going smoothly.

More oil transported

Apart from containers, there were few changes to the volume of Basel’s Rhine harbour traffic compared to 2016. All in all, cargo handling reached 5,79 million tonnes last year – 1,8 per cent less than in 2016. There was a slight increase in mineral oil transports (by 0,8 per cent from 2,44 to 2,46 million tonnes of imports). On the other hand, the second-largest transport category – construction materials – decreased by 10,2 per cent to 704,561 tonnes. However, as their volume is only equivalent to one third of all oil imports, this decrease was not very substantial.In the long term, the SRH is expecting a decline in oil imports due to a changeover of the heating and car industries to renewable energy sources. In the short term, however, they still account for stable oil transports in the Rhine harbours, the SRH spokesperson added. The only striking changes in 2017 happened in smaller categories of transport goods. Looking at imports and exports, there was a decrease of 2,7 per cent in Rhine imports to 4,73 million tonnes in total. By comparison, exports that passed the Rhine harbours rose by 2,6 per cent, to 1,06 million tonnes. Every year, more than ten per cent of all Swiss-imported goods and almost a third of all imported petrol, diesel, and heating oil are transferred through the Rhine harbours at Basel, Birsfelden, and Muttenz.

UBS takes over Nordea private banking in Luxemburg

Swiss major bank UBS is taking over the Luxemburg-based private banking of Swedish bank group Nordea. The takeover should be completed by the end of the year. At the end of 2017, the Nordea branch managed client funds in the sum of 13 billion Euros, a spokesperson for the UBS said on Thursday. There was no information provided about the amount paid for the takeover. The UBS bank plans to merge the Nordea branch with its Europe daughter firm based in Germany, which it founded in late 2016. As well as Luxemburg, Italy, Spain, Austria, Sweden, and Denmark also form part of this group. Nordea will continue to operate in Luxemburg for institutional clients, but it wants to keep private asset management limited to Scandinavia in the future.

Baselland government “regrets” cutbacks at SDA news agency

The government of Baselland “appreciates” the reporting style of the independent news agency SDA and regrets that the agency plans to make cutbacks. At the beginning of this year, the SDA announced plans for a company reorganisation, due to “economic reasons”. At least 36 of 150 full-time editorial staff positions are expected to go. In response to a question in parliament on Thursday posed by a Social Democratic (SP) county commissioner about the cuts, members of Baselland government said a decline in services offered by the SDA news agency in the Northwest region of Switzerland would be “sad”. State councillor Anton Lauber said that the government “appreciates the objective and down-to-earth reporting style” of the SDA. The agency plays a crucial role in informing the public about political developments and contexts, he said. However, the government does not know how the editorial team of SDA Northwest Switzerland would change when the cutbacks are made.

The government furthermore underlines the importance of financing the SDA with publishers and the Swiss Broadcasting Organisation (SRG). When asked what the canton of Baselland thinks of joining the Federal Government and other cantons to support a non-profit-oriented and independent news agency, a government response stated: “This is an expression of the independence of the executive powers, legislative powers, and judicial powers in Switzerland.” According to an internal poll conducted by the government, the canton of Baselland is currently not under any contract with the SDA.