Peaks and troughs for Hamburg’s 2020 container throughput

The container ship COSCO SHIPPING GEMINI has moored at the container terminal in the Port of Hamburg

Sharp declines in container imports from China and Russia contrasting with record throughput levels from the UK and US have resulted in a mixed review of container throughput for the Port of Hamburg.

Announcing its 2020 results on 25 February, the North German hub experienced a 1.2% fall year-on-year (YoY) for container throughput in 2020, with a 7.6% fall in total throughput at the Port.

Some 8.5 million TEU in containers were processed in 2020, a 7.9% decrease from 2019.

Imports in containers from China and Russia were key drivers behind the fall in traffic; the port experienced an 8.2% decrease in containers from China, and 12.7% decrease in throughput from Russia.

The port also suffered falls in containers from South Korea, Sweden, and Brazil.

The Port was buoyed by increases to container traffic from the US and UK,: both nations traded at record levels through the Port, with container traffic growth from the UK up 28.2%. The Port cited an upturn in shipments for the German market and increased deliveries to the UK pre-Brexit as reasons behind the surge.

The US now ranks second in container traffic in Hamburg, reaching a new record of 591,000 TEU in 2020.

The decline in seaborne container throughput for China – Hamburg’s top trading partner by far – could not offset positive development in trade with other regions for overall container throughput.

“The first six months were notable for reduced activity in many areas for the economy, weaker consumer demand, and reduction in liner sailings,” said Axel Mattern, joint CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing.

“We are delighted that the second half brought a turnaround, with the total throughput in 2020 only showing a single-digit minus,” he added.

Looking ahead to 2021, the Port expects container traffic to stabilise, expecting a throughput of 8.7 million TEU following the resumption of suspended liner savings and additional new services.

The Port has also seen significant investments made to expand and modernise its infrastructure in 2020. Terminal operators HHLA and EUROGATE invested in additional container gantry cranes for their Waltershof handling facilities, allowing Hamburg to handle mega-containerships.

In 2021, Hamburg will be completing the fairway adjustment of the Lower and Outer Elbe, allowing the port to stay at the forefront of major European hubs.

On decarbonisation, Mattern highlighted the establishing of the first land-based power supply for containerships at the German port, as positive steps towards Hamburg’s net-zero objectives.

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