First quarter growth for Port of Hamburg


In the first three months of 2011 the Port of Hamburg achieved above-average growth of 18.2 percent in container throughput and a 9.8 percent gain in total seaborne cargo throughput. Whereas the Western ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp reported increases in container throughput for the same period of 2011 of 10.1 and 7.9 percent, respectively, with throughput of 2.1 million TEU growth for the Port of Hamburg reached 18.2 percent. Hamburg accordingly regained market shares and extended its position as the Northern European hub for container traffic.

On 18 May Port of Hamburg Marketing, the port’s marketing organization, published throughput figures for the Port of Hamburg in the first quarter of 2011. Total seaborne cargo throughput in Germany‘s largest universal port reached 31.4 million tons (+ 9.8 percent).

General cargo throughput at 21.4 million tons developed very well, being 15 percent higher than in the first quarter of 2010. This growth was primarily led by the excellent import and export showing on container throughput.

Bulk cargo throughput at 9.9 million tons in the first quarter of 2011 was just ahead (+ 0.1 percent) of the previous year’s total. At 4.7 million tons, grab cargo throughput for the first quarter was 3.2 percent down on the previous year. Rising coal imports, which at 1.5 million tons were up by 18.1 percent, failed to offset the 21.6 percent downturn in ore imports (1.8 million tons). Sustained especially by crude oil imports during the first quarter of 2011, throughput of liquid cargoes reached 3.6 million tons, representing a gain of 3.7 percent. The third bulk cargo consists of suction goods, with throughput in the first quarter of 2011 up by 2 percent at 1.6 million tons. Totalling 791,000 tons, imports of oil-bearing fruits were of the order of 18 percent higher, attaining the best-ever quarterly figure for the Port of Hamburg. At 143,000 tons, wheat imports also developed extraordinarily well, being ahead by 38.9 percent in the first quarter.

Non-containerized general cargoes at 562,000 tons failed by 4.6 percent to reach the previous year’s total. This was partly caused by lower imports of citrus fruits, which at 122,000 tons were down by 18.6 percent. Increased exports of vehicles, with 22.9 percent growth to 110,000 tons, and a doubling of vehicle imports to 22,000 tons, failed to compensate for this in the first quarter.

“We are delighted by this excellent throughput figure for the Port of Hamburg and see the main reasons behind above-average growth in container throughput as being the unusually strong increase on the container trade routes to and from Asia as well as the Baltic region. In the first three months of 2011, 1.3 million TEU (+ 15.7 percent) were handled in seaborne container traffic with Asia. This especially important region of our market therefore accounted for 56 percent of total growth in container throughput for the first three months of 2011,” explained Claudia Roller, CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing. Altogether five new liner services, plus a further five with capacities topped up, to America, Asia and in the European trade produced substantial growth in container traffic for Hamburg. On container throughput with the Baltic region and with Asia, led by China, the Port of Hamburg is one of the leading seaports in Northern Europe.

As a leading foreign trade hub, Hamburg handles large volumes of goods in foreign trade to and from overseas in what are known as transhipment trades by feedership to/from neighbouring countries in Europe and especially the Baltic region. Along with Finland, Russia is the most important market region in the Baltic area. With around 154 sailings per week, Hamburg continues to offer the densest network of feeder connections in Northern Europe with the entire Baltic region.

“Hamburg is the leading feeder port for the Baltic region and managed to extend this position in the first quarter of 2011,” said Claudia Roller. Hamburg’s Baltic feeder services to and from Russia, for example, reported steep growth of 35.6 percent to 121,000 TEU. At 82,000 TEU, the increase in container traffic to and from Finland even reached 49.3 percent; while at 55.000 TEU seaborne container traffic with ports in Poland was significantly up by 26.9 percent. For these services with the Baltic area the Kiel Canal gives Hamburg a significant advantage in competition with the Northern European seaports situated farther West in the form of shorter voyage times and savings of distance, depending on the ports of origin and destination.

The positive results for the Port of Hamburg Railway, a division of the Hamburg Port Authority, were maintained in the first quarter. Following the absolute record set by transporting more than 40 million tons of cargoes by rail in 2010, Port Railway throughput figures rose by a further 11.2 percent compared to the previous year in the first three months of 2011. The environmental components introduced at the Port Railway at the beginning of the year also took effect. Month by month, 84 rail companies have introduced more and more railcars with noise-reducing “whispering brakes”. “Since the beginning of the year more than 26,000 quiet railcars have been registered with the Port Railway, and numbers are still increasing,” reported Harald Kreft, CEO of the Port Railway.

Thomas Cotterell of the port business hosting the Port of Hamburg’s first quarterly press conference in 2011, presented his company, H.D. Cotterell GmbH & Co.KG. This is a traditional firm of warehousekeepers, specializing among other activities in handling, storage and processing of cocoa beans and cocoa mass. “The Port of Hamburg has also made good progress on cocoa handling, meanwhile almost doubling the volume handled in 2004. By comparison with other cocoa centres in Europe, over that period progress in the Hamburg region has been far more dynamic. This trend has been caused by continuous growth in industrial demand for cocoa beans as well as cocoa products, combined with heavy investment by the North German cocoa industry,” explained Cotterell. “Strong consumer demand also caused an increase in the industrial processing of raw materials for chocolate manufacture. That is a positive development for the Port of Hamburg and for Hamburg’s warehousekeepers functioning as the link between trade and industry. Hamburg’s warehousekeepers recognized the momentum of the market and were the first independent service providers in Germany to incorporate melting cocoa mass in their own melting facility in their range of services,” added Cotterell.

Following extensive investments in expanding the port and its infrastructure, and also in new IT systems, the Port of Hamburg is already well equipped to handle growing volumes of goods and transport as well as mega-sized vessels. With its dense network of worldwide liner services and its superb rail, road and inland waterway links, the Port of Hamburg exercises an especially important function as the worldwide foreign trade hub for the German economy and for external trade of its European neighbours.

Growing quantities of containers handled in the Port of Hamburg are being discharged and loaded by ultra large vessels. Since over 900 calls by ultra large vessels are anticipated in Hamburg in 2011, from the point of view of the port business and foreign customers, the planned deepening of the navigation channel of the Lower and Outer Elbe urgently needs to be implemented. Claudia Roller confidently alluded to the significance of this infrastructure project: “For Hamburg and the future development of the port and of employment, the planned deepening of the navigation channel of the Lower and Outer Elbe is of decisive importance and will soon be realized. The Port of Hamburg provides jobs for more than 150,000 workers, a large proportion of whom come from the neighbouring states of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein.”

Even if growth in the German economy may in the opinion of leading economists slow down in the second quarter owing to the rise in prices and the somewhat flagging momentum of the world economy, for 2011 Claudia Roller anticipates further sustained growth of around 10 percent in the Port of Hamburg’s throughput of seaborne cargoes