The container pool was significantly reduced by the return of leased containers and the sale of old owned boxes. In contrast, the slot capacity of deployed vessels, at 304,000 teu, remained roughly constant. With the replacement of smaller charter vessels by larger newbuildings, the strategy of lowering unit costs is continuing. The fleet operated by the Hamburg Süd Group, with the inclusion of 52 vessels in the tramp division, comprised 148 units, 36 of them Group-owned.
The programme of increasing the owned share of vessels is to be continued in the years ahead. By 2012, twelve ships with a total capacity of some 80,000 teu will enhance the Group-owned fleet. They include ten vessels of the “Santa” class, which, with a nominal capacity of 7,100 TEU, will be the largest ships in the Hamburg Süd fleet.
In 2009, investment was limited to Euro167m (2008: Euro530m). For the coming three years an increase of over Euro 700m in capital expenditure on ships and containers is planned.
Given the significant decline in earnings, Hamburg Süd managed to cut costs by Euro 300m. To lower ship system costs, liner services were rationalised – largely with partners – and slow steaming programmes instituted. In the case of cargo-related costs, a wide range of individual measures were taken in the area of cargo handling, intermodal and depot costs.
The sharp fall in bunker prices relieved the pressure on costs and results. Fuel expenditure fell to roughly US$700m – around US$400m less than the previous year. Of this amount, approximately 75% was attributable to lower bunker prices, and 25% to reduced consumption as a result of slow steaming and the restructuring of the fleet to larger and fewer units.
Although Hamburg Süd was unable to report post a positive result in 2009, considering the historic crisis in liner shipping and the fact that the Group overall recorded a positive operational cash flow sufficient to cover the – albeit reduced – investment budget, 2009 performed can almost be viewed as a success.