Comprising the general and bulk cargo segments, seaborne cargo handling in Hamburg during the first nine months at 104.3 million tons was at a stable level. At 6.8 million TEU (20-ft standard containers), throughput of containerized general cargoes continued to grow; while at 34.1 million tons, bulk cargo throughput remained just below the previous year’s figure. For Port of Hamburg Marketing, the excellent trend in container traffic with Canada is a gratifying pointer. The port’s marketing organization sees the CETA free trade agreement as providing an additional boost for seaborne trade that will benefit the Port of Hamburg.
‘On container throughput, a total of 6.8 million TEU (up 0.4 percent) represented a renewal of slight growth. For loaded boxes, we achieved a 1.2 percent increase to 5.8 million TEU,’ said Axel Mattern, Joint CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing, at the port’s quarterly press conference. By contrast, handling of empty containers at 924,000 TEU was 4.3 percent lower than in the previous third quarter. Mattern mentioned the not yet implemented dredging of the Elbe fairway as one reason for the downturn in empty box handling. Market research by Port of Hamburg Marketing indicates that restrictions on the Elbe applying to Hamburg plus limited tidal ‘windows’ are causing shipping companies are to use available slot space on their mega-containerships for loaded boxes as a matter of priority. Empty containers are increasingly being routed via other ports in Northern Europe, added Mattern.
Among Northern Europe’s major ports, Hamburg’s container throughput features the lowest proportion of empty boxes at 13.7 percent, and at 86.3 percent, the highest for loaded containers. ‘With the navigation channel adjusted, we could increase both container and bulk cargo throughput in Hamburg. We therefore continue to closely monitor the downturn in empty box handling. From the angle of value added, which on handling loaded boxes can be seen as higher for the port, our throughput of loaded boxes underlines Hamburg’s attractiveness as a Northern European hub port,’ continued Mattern. Against a background of far-reaching restructuring by leading container shipping alliances, closure of the BUSS cargo handling terminal and clearance delays caused by Customs staff shortages, the two port experts see the Port of Hamburg as having held its own well in the first nine months.
Of the 6.8 million TEU (up 0.4%) handled in Hamburg in the first nine months, 3.5 million TEU were import containers (up 0.7%) and 3.2 million TEU export containers (up 0.1%). The upward trend in container traffic with China, Hamburg’s leading trade partner by a wide margin, was maintained, with 2.5 percent growth to 2.0 million TEU.
Once ratified by the parliaments of EU countries, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada that provisionally came into force on 21 September will simplify foreign trade. Customs dues will be scrapped on 98 percent of goods traded, and import and export restrictions will very largely be discarded. Alignment of industry standards through standard regulations for many goods will also make trading simpler. With trade volume put at around 64 billion euros, Canada is among the EU’s Top Ten trading partners. Germany’s trade with Canada totals about 14 billion euros. Canada takes 13th place among the Port of Hamburg’s trading partners for container transport. Three liner services and one multi-purpose service offer regular sailings between the Port of Hamburg and Canada. In the first nine months, 144,000 TEU (up 20.5 percent) were handled in container traffic with Canada. With Halifax, a Canadian port is even a member of Port of Hamburg Marketing, using the numerous opportunities for cooperation. Among the roughly one million tons of export freight shipped via Hamburg to Canada are chemical products, food and beverages, metals and metal products, as well as machinery, equipment and household appliances. Imports from Canada total around three million tons. Of these, Hamburg mainly handles ores, coal, agricultural products and food & beverages.
The trend in throughput in the Baltic trade that is of such importance for the Port of Hamburg was also gratifying. This increased by 2.8 percent to total 1.4 million TEU. Seaborne container traffic with Sweden was 20.9 percent up at 220.000 TEU and with Poland it grew by 7.7 percent to 172,000 TEU. With growth at between 5.8 percent and 18.8 percent, Lithuania (95,000 TEU), Latvia (88,000 TEU) and Estonia (35,000 TEU) also contributed to growth on the Baltic services. The trend was positive for the Port of Hamburg’s container services with Europe generally, the total being 1.6 percent higher at 2.0 million TEU. Other countries with distinct growth in container traffic were Vietnam, 62.6 percent up at 52,000 TEU, Chile, 43.4 percent up at 57,500 TEU, Mexico 22.7 percent ahead at 68,000 TEU, and Israel, up 25.5 percent at 57,000 TEU.
More mega-containerships in Hamburg
With calls by containerships with slot capacities of between 14,000 and 17,999 TEU increasing by 36.9 percent to 167 and those by even larger vessels (18,000-20,000+ TEU) up by 87.8 percent at 77, the number of particularly large containerships seen in the Port of Hamburg further increased. Making maiden calls, among the latter were mega-carriers MOL TRUST with slot capacity of 20,170 TEU and MUNICH MAERSK (20,568 TEU). Both Joint CEOs see the inability of mega-containerships to call and leave Hamburg optimally loaded on account of the still outstanding adjustment of the Elbe fairway as the main reason behind only slight growth in container traffic. ‘Adjustment of the fairway is essential for Hamburg and should at last be put into effect. Higher draft and improved opportunities for passing on the Elbe will offer increased safety and flexibility for traffic control on the Elbe, also producing tremendous advantages for merchant shipping. Mega-containerships will be able to bring/take away an additional 1,600 and more containers (TEU) per call to/from Hamburg,’ explained Ingo Egloff, Joint CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing. For both CEOs of Port of Hamburg Marketing, it is not acceptable that vital infrastructure projects like the adjustment of the fairway on the Lower and Outer Elbe should be blocked by objections from environmental pressure groups and others. The delays involved are meanwhile barely calculable. ‘It is becoming increasingly difficult for us to explain to the port’s international customers how we are still having to wait for implementation of fairway dredging despite the qualified planning approval granted in 2012 and the February 2017 decision of the Federal Administrative Court. The fact that the bodies objecting also seemingly continue to pursue the aim of a final rejection of the dredging of the fairway also deserves criticism. In doing so, they wholly ignore the damage to the national economy caused by a blockade that has already lasted years and the additional adverse economic effects on the further development of the port and the jobs involved,’ commented Egloff.
Bulk cargo throughput was basically stable, being down one percent at 34.1 million tons in the first nine months. Imports and export trends differed. Imports were slightly lower, being 2.5 percent down at 25.1 million tons. Behind this were falls in throughputs of suction goods, 4.9 percent down at three million tons, and of liquid cargoes that were 8.1 percent lower at 7.4 million tons. At 14.7 million tons, up by 1.1 percent, grab cargoes re-asserted their position as the strongest segment of bulk cargo throughput. A renewed advance was achieved in exports of bulk cargoes, up by 3.6 percent, to nine million tons. This positive trend covered differing developments in the sub-segments. Suction cargo throughput, for example fell by 18.4 percent to three million tons. Handling of grab cargoes was 11.8 percentage points higher at 2.9 million tons, while the liquid cargo total actually rose by 26.8 percent to with 3.2 million tons. Totalling 1.1 million tons, down by 9.4 percent, throughput of non-containerized general cargoes, for instance large plant elements or wheeled cargo, failed to reach the previous year’s level.
Third quarter brings record figure for railborne container transport
With around 2,000 container train services per week, Hamburg is Europe’s largest rail port. With something over 611,000 TEU being brought into or moved out of the Port of Hamburg by rail, the third quarter produced a record figure. That was an 8.8 percent increase on II/2017. For the first nine months as a whole, rail transport totals of 34.4 million tons (down 2.9 percent) and around 1.8 million TEU (down 2.0 percent) were recorded for the Port of Hamburg. ‘The record figure for the third quarter underlines Hamburg’s efficiency in environmentally-friendly railborne container transport. Up to 220 freight trains with up to 5,900 wagons are cleared daily in the Port of Hamburg. Around eleven percent of total German rail freight traffic originates or terminates in the Port of Hamburg,’ emphasized Ingo Egloff.
The Port of Hamburg is Germany’s largest universal port, underpinning more than 155,000 jobs in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region. The port is also an important location for industry, of great significance for the entire German national economy, with annual gross value added of 21.8 billion euros. For 2017, the Port of Hamburg’s marketing organisation reckons with seaborne freight handling of 138 million tons and container traffic of around 8.9 million TEU, with results equalling the previous year’s level.