Corona pandemic reduces seaborne cargo throughput in Port of Hamburg

Container throughput was 12.4% down at 4.1 million TEU

Only too evident worldwide, the negative repercussions of the Corona pandemic are also affecting the throughput trend in Germany’s largest universal port. In the first six months of the year, for instance, seaborne cargoes loaded/discharged at its terminals totalled just 61.2 million tons. That represents a 12.0% downturn. Both the main elements of throughput were hit, being well down on last year’s excellent figures. General cargo handling was 12.2% lower at 42.5 million tons, bulk cargo handling 11.7% down at 18.7 million tons. In the container handling segment, a total of 4.1 million TEU – 20-ft standard containers – were shifted across the quaywalls, a 12.4% fall on the previous year.

The largest volume fall on the previous year occurred on imports. These were 16.3% lower in the first six months at 33.7 million tons, being considerably weaker than exports totalling 27.5 million tons, the downturn here being limited to a single-figure 6.1%. On the import side, reduced steel production, in particular, led to lower throughput of ore and coal. Downturns of 24.0% 10.5% were recorded for the part-segments grab and liquid cargoes. In the suction cargo segment, by contrast, first-half agribulk throughput soared by 30.8% to 4.1 million tons. Considerably higher grain and fertiliser exports were the main reason for the excellent first-half throughput trend.

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On container handling as reflected in volumes with the Port of Hamburg’s top ten trading partners, the trend for the first six months varied a great deal. Except for Denmark, six countries here reported substantial double-digit downturns. The 16.4% collapse in seaborne container throughput with China, Hamburg’s top trading partner by a wide margin, proved impossible to offset through positive trends with other countries. Besides China, downturns in seaborne container throughput were also reported with Russia -14.9%, Sweden -13.3%, South Korea -14.4%, Denmark -2.7%, and Poland -10.5%.

Apart from the US – up 1.7%, other trading partners reporting growth were Singapore with 5.5%, the UK with 39%, and Malaysia with 1.7%. Among container partners, with a first-half 288,000 TEU the US in second place enjoyed growth of 1.7%. This good trend is attributable to the four Transatlantic services that started operating from Hamburg at the beginning of 2019. These have developed extremely well and ensured higher throughput volumes with the US, especially on container services. In third place with 212,000 TEU, Singapore achieved first-half growth of 5.5%. Mattern estimates that a significant part of this was produced by transhipment trades with other countries in the region routed via Singapore. From the UK, the main shipments consisted of empty containers for German industry.

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