Continued investment in technology has allowed Hamburg port in Germany to double its container volume to three million teu (20-ft equivalent units) in the past eight years, a port official says. Peter Dietrich, president of Hamburg port operators, said the five major operators of container terminals at Hamburg had jointly created the 'paperless port project' at the end of 1995 to meet the challenge of future competition. The five operators are Buss, Eurokai, Hamburger Hafen-U.Lagerhaus (HHLA), HUG and Unikai. Mr Dietrich, who is also executive chairman of HHLA - the largest terminal operator at the port - said it was the common objective of the terminals to introduce a standardised, paperless, container dispatch system throughout Hamburg's container terminals. Electronic data exchange (EDI) is replacing a number of paper documents today. The port's plan is to introduce the paperless port within the framework of a comprehensive pilot project this year in co-operation with the port's clients. When the project is successfully concluded, the paperless port will be extended to all customers, including shipping companies, agents, forwarders, shippers and railways as well as to other ports, authorities and institutions. Standardised electronic data communications between all Hamburg container terminals and the smooth flow of comprehensive, accurate data preceding shipment will help to enhance the quality and speed of container dispatch via the Hamburg port. Although the port plans to develop progressively the use of international Edifact (electronic data interchange for administration, commerce and transport) standards, it will protect its customers' investment by ensuring compatibility with existing systems. Other formats that might be incorporated include Habis (Hafenbahn-Betriebsund Informations system), a port railway operations system, Gegis (Gefahrgut-informations system), a hazardous goods information system, and Truckstation, providing information on truck movements. It will also employ formats such as ACTION (agents container transports improving and organising network) or the CBS (container BewegungsSatz) - container movement notification - during a transition period. The port plans to offer sufficient flexibility to meet clients' requirements regarding data exchange systems. Apart from direct data transfer between clients and terminals, it will be possible to employ many types of transfer modes such as VANS (value-added network services) and to benefit from services offered by the Hamburg port communication service provider Dakosy. The port says even customers not equipped with the appropriate hardware will be able to take part through the provision of service terminals to capture and transmit data.