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Sea cargo handling stabilises in port of Hamburg

Half-yearly press conference: collapse in traffic with China and Russia almost halted. Freight transport by rail makes strong gains. Prospects for 2016

Seaborne cargo handling in the port of Hamburg has stabilised in the first half of 2016 and reached 70.2 million tons, Hafen Hamburg Marketing announced Tuesday (August 16th) during their half-year press conference. At 70.2 million tons, the first half total seaborne cargo throughput, which includes the general and bulk cargo segments, was slightly down – 0.9 per cent – over 2015. In the first six months of 2016, containerized cargo handling totalled 4.5 million TEU – 20-ft standard containers – corresponding to a downturn of 1.2 per cent. At the same time, a steep increase occurred in freight transport by rail to/from the port of Hamburg.

Axel Mattern, joint CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing, noted: “Seaborne cargo throughput in the port of Hamburg in the first half of the year may have been slightly lower, but the trend was noticeably more stable. With an advance of 1.9 per cent by comparison with the preceding three months, the second quarter of 2016 already signalled a discernible upward trend.”

Stronger position as a port with rail connection

This positive trend is also reflected by a comparison of the second quarters of 2016 and 2015, which reveals growth of 0.7 per cent. The trend in seaport-hinterland traffic by rail is also satisfactory. Mattern added: “We have established that in the first half of 2016, the quantity of freight transported ecologically by rail reached 23.8 million tons, representing a real increase advance of 3.9 per cent. Hamburg is further extending its position as the largest rail port in Europe.”

Traffic with China and Russia stabilising

However, in the first six months of 2106, container throughput at 4.5 million TEU – 20-ft standard containers was slightly lower than in 2015. But the collapse in container traffic with China and Russia reported for last year has been almost completely halted in the meantime. Despite ongoing foreign trade sanctions on Russia for instance, 216,000 TEU were transported between the port of Hamburg and Russia, representing an increase of 2.3 per cent. Container traffic with China also developed more steadily, and at – 1.0 per cent was slightly lower than the 1.3 million TEU in 2015.

Container traffic with China also developed more steadily and at 1.0 per cent was slightly below the 1.3 million TEU last year. India is of growing importance and with 128,000 TEU – up 9.9 per cent – now ranks eighth among Hamburg’s top trading partners for container handling.

Trade with Scandinavia slightly down

Other positive throughput trends were reported for container traffic with Finland (up 4.3 per cent), the U.S. (up 7.3 per cent), the United Arab Emirates (up 14 per cent) and Britain (up 13.1 per cent). The 1.2 per cent drop in total container throughput was due mainly to the downturn in transhipment services with ports in Poland and Sweden that handled calls from a larger number of direct container services. The downturn in the first-half container handling came to 5.6 per cent with Scandinavia, and to 5.7 per cent with Poland and the Baltic states.


The port of Hamburg’s marketing organisation is expecting total seaborne cargo throughput of 138 million tons and container throughput of around 9 million TEU for 2016. The port of Hamburg is Germany’s largest universal port and guarantees over 155,000 jobs in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region. It is also a significant industrial location, with total added value of EUR 21.8 billion of immense importance for the entire German national economy.

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