When it comes to cargo handling, the signs point to growth. There is great optimism at the Port of Hamburg. But the boom brings new problems with it.
Dhe rising world trade kept the Port of Hamburg on a growth path at the beginning of 2021. “From March onwards, we noticed the ramp-up of many economic sectors, stronger consumer demand and a stabilization of the scheduled services starting in Hamburg,” said Marketing Director Axel Mattern on Thursday.
His board colleague Ingo Egloff predicted that the ongoing effects of the corona pandemic on global transport and retail chains are likely to “gradually weaken”. “Given the current situation, the year 2021 will bring growth again for the Port of Hamburg.” After Rotterdam and Antwerp, Hamburg is number three among the European seaports.
A total of 32.1 million sea cargoes were loaded or unloaded in the first quarter, 0.4 percent more than a year earlier. In the period from January to March, 2.2 million standard containers (TEU) crossed the quays, 1.8 percent more than a year earlier. The abbreviation TEU stands for a 20-foot container (“Twenty foot equivalent unit”) and is the decisive unit of measurement with which the handling in the port or the capacity of a ship are quantified.
It is true that the global consequences of the corona pandemic had an impact on handling developments in the first quarter, said Mattern. “The month of March brought a significant turnaround in container handling. The growth showed a strong plus of 9.4 percent compared to March 2020. “
The main support for container handling was China, by far the Port of Hamburg’s largest trading partner (plus 16 percent). There was also an increase of 0.7 percent in trade with the USA, “Hamburg’s number two”. In the two largest global economies, the economic recovery after the Corona slump in 2020 started earlier and more sustainably than in Germany. “Among Hamburg’s top 10 trading partners in seaborne container traffic, six countries are already back on a growth path in the first quarter,” said Egloff.
But not quite as bad as feared
The handling of bulk goods – for example ores, coal or liquids – achieved an increase of 2.7 percent to 9.8 million tons, supported primarily by strong increases in ore imports. General cargo handling remained at 22.4 million tons (minus 0.5 percent) is still just below the previous year’s result.
The corona crisis year 2020 caused massive drops in cargo handling in the Port of Hamburg, but overall the development was not quite as bad as feared in the end. Instead of double-digit, sea freight throughput fell by 7.6 percent to 126.3 million tons. A total of 8.5 million standard containers (TEU) crossed the quay, 7.9 percent fewer than in the previous year.
The container throughput index of the RWI – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research and the Institute for Shipping Economics and Logistics is also pointing upwards. As announced on Thursday, according to the current flash estimate, this rose seasonally adjusted by 2.4 points to 127.1 in April. After a short break in winter, the index has risen significantly for the second time in a row.
Traffic jams in ports
On Wednesday, the Hamburg-based transport and logistics group Hapag-Lloyd announced that it was still seeing a globally scarce supply of containers in the picking up world trade. “Hapag-Lloyd has therefore invested again in its container fleet and ordered a total of 60,000 TEU standard containers in China,” announced the group. In April of this year, Hapag-Lloyd announced orders totaling around 150,000 TEU for 2021.
“The significantly increased demand has led to a shortage of containers all over the world,” reports the container shipping company, which is one of the world’s most important providers of sea transport with a fleet of 241 ships and a total transport capacity of 1.7 million TEU.
Strong imbalances, for example in exports from Asia, but also due to traffic jams in ports and delays in hinterland traffic, ensured that the containers were tied up for considerably longer. “The demand is still very high, the provision of container equipment is currently one of the greatest challenges in our industry,” said Hapag-Lloyd CEO Rolf Habben Jansen.
Thanks to the transport boom that began in the second half of the year, Hapag-Lloyd increased its consolidated profit by 151 percent to EUR 935.4 million with sales of around EUR 12.8 billion. The year 2021 also began with a jump in profits.