The first quarter of the year brought very different trends for cargo handling, and traffic, for the Port of Hamburg. At 2.2 million TEU – 20-ft standard containers, throughput was up 1.8 percent. Down by 2.8 percent, total seaborne cargo handling at 31.2 million tons was slightly lower than in the same quarter of the previous year. The repercussions of the sanctions against Russia only effective from March were not yet apparent in all the handling segments for Germany’s largest universal port in the first quarter. “After a very good start in January, the start of the war in Ukraine led to an extension of EU sanctions in trade with Russia during the course of February. In the Port of Hamburg we then rapidly noticed a downturn in container traffic with Russian ports. That was caused primarily by the reactions of many shipping companies in ceasing to call at Russian ports. “Imports from Russian ports of coal, along with other bulk cargoes such as oil products, continued without being affected,” said Axel Mattern, CEO of Hamburg Marketing. Mattern pointed out that in the first quarter repercussions were already apparent in the general cargo sector, but that is meanwhile more obviously true in virtually all handling and industry segments.
Railborne freight traffic again developed very well. During the first quarter, at 12 million tons the Port of Hamburg Railway handled 1.6 percent greater volume. At 0.7 million TEU, 1.4 percent more containers were transported. “The Port of Hamburg once again confirmed its capability as leading rail port. That was impressively underlined in January with record figures of 60,000 TEU per week and 231 train moves per day.
Against a background of especially high peak load at container terminals, and limitations in the rail network caused by storms, these records are noteworthy. We are delighted that despite these special challenges, it has even been possible to launch new container block train services. Delays to ships and off-schedule transport chains did however affect environment-friendly seaport-hinterland freight traffic by rail,” explained Mattern. Rail’s share of the modal split for container transport in Hamburg is meanwhile around 51.5 percent. Trucking takes 46.1 percent and inland waterway shipping, 2.4 percent.
First-quarter Seaborne Cargo Handling in the Port of Hamburg
Totalling 22.5 million tons, general cargo throughput in the first three months of the year rose by 0.6 percent. Generating much added value, conventional general cargo handling at 0.4 million tons was up by a juicy 47.7 percent. Down 10.6 percent at 8.7 million tons on the same quarter of the previous year, bulk cargo handling throughput was weaker. Within this segment, grab cargo throughput was 11.7 percent lower at 4.9 million tons. Downturns in fertilizer exports and lower imports of coal, coke and ore were the main factors there. In the agribulk area, 1.6 million tons of suction goods were handled, the 5.2 percent downturn being mainly attributable to lower throughput of oleaginous fruits that was not completely offset by higher imports of grain and feedstuffs. In the liquid cargo segment, at 2.3 million tons first-quarter throughput was 11.7 percent down, lower imports being the main reason.
First-quarter container handling totalled 2.2 million TEU, a 1.8 percent gain. “At 81 percent, the collapse in container traffic with Russian ports matched expectations. At the same time, we saw a steep increase in container services with Polish ports and those in the Baltic states. Larger volumes in traffic with these countries contributed towards offsetting the reduction in the Russia trade,” said Mattern.
China, USA and Singapore Head Hamburg’s Top Ten partner Countries for Container Handling
Among the Port of Hamburg’s Top Ten countries for container handling, there was no change among the first three. First-quarter container handling with China totalled 0.7 million TEU, representing a gain of 6.2 percent. China strengthened its position as Hamburg’s most significant trading partner by a wide margin. “With the high total of 18 liner services linking Hamburg with Chinese ports, even in Hamburg delayed ship arrivals are bringing home to us the special challenges created by handling bottlenecks caused by corona in some Chinese ports. Yet we managed to extend Hamburg’s position as the leading port for China,” said Mattern.
Following below China in the ranking of Hamburg’s trading partners for container handling came the USA - down 5.7 percent, Singapore – up 9.1 percent, Poland - up 45.2 percent, Sweden - up 10.4 percent, Russia - down 29.3 percent, and Great Britain - down 2.9 percent. These leaders in the Top Ten are followed by Finland - up 37.9 percent in eighth place, Brazil barely - 0.1 percent - changed in ninth, and Denmark - up 6.6 percent - in tenth.
The first quarter of last year brought a slight fall in the number of calls by vessels with containerized cargoes. Yet Megamax vessels with over 18,000 slots were calling the Port of Hamburg much more frequently than in earlier years, incl. pre-crisis 2019. Calls by VLCSs - very large containerships with capacities of between 8,000 and 10,000 TEU - were also up to a respectable extent.
The final stage of the fairway adjustment also received the go-ahead at the end of January 2022. This produced additional improvements for large vessels and distinct advances for those of medium size. The advantages of the widened and deepened navigation channel offer both opportunities for loading additional cargo, and greater flexibility on arrival and departure, permitting distinctly more efficient use of the Port of Hamburg. Fairway adjustment was well received by the port’s customers. Large containerships have been reaching and leaving the port with a greater draft ever since May, 2021.
Prospects for 2022
In estimating the further trend in throughput for 2022, the Port of Hamburg’s marketing organisation remains cautious. Yet some growth in specific segments and individual container trades is entirely possible. Yet the overall result will be shaped by the anticipated downturn in throughput segments affected by sanctions. At year-end, total throughput for 2022 will therefore be considerably below the volume of 130 million tons/nine million TEU anticipated prior to the Ukraine war.