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Hamburg hit by weak trade

Hamburg hit by weak trade

The Port of Hamburg has announced a 9.3% year-on-year fall in its 2015 container handling volumes amid weak market conditions.

The port reported that its throughput went down from 9.7m teu in 2014 to 8.8m teu last year, falling to third-place in the European container ports rankings behind Rotterdam and Antwerp, which handled 12m teu and 9.6m teu respectively in 2015.

According to the port, the fall in seaborne container throughput is mainly attributable to the fall in volumes handled with China and Russia, as well as the decrease in container traffic with Polish ports, which was caused by a rising number of container services calling directly at Gdansk without transhipment at one of the northern ports.

“Container traffic with China down by 14% and with Russia by 34% could not be offset in volume by growth in container traffic with other countries such as Malaysia, India, the United Arab Emirates or Mexico,” Axel Mattern, member of the Port of Hamburg’s marketing executive board, said in a statement.

However, the port reported a growing seaport-hinterland container transport both by rail, by 2.8%, and by inland waterway vessels, by 27%.

Mattern said: “Among the ports of Northern Europe, the Port of Hamburg has maintained its strong position on container traffic with the Baltic region.

“Compared to ports such as Antwerp and Rotterdam, Hamburg reports an around 7% higher proportion of transhipment cargo. This is one of the reasons that Hamburg is more seriously affected than Antwerp or Rotterdam by weakness in China’s foreign trade and Russia’s economic problems, for example.”

The port reported a 2.8% year-on-year increase in its 2015 container traffic by rail to 2.3m teu.

Ingo Egloff, member of the port’s marketing executive board, commented in a statement: “Hamburg is the European leader for containers transported by rail, and is the top rail port. Among ports in northern Europe, Hamburg’s share of containers transported by rail is around 50%, while Rotterdam’s is about 19% and Antwerp’s roughly 8%.”

In a statement, Egloff claimed that the 28% rise in the number of calls in Hamburg by ultra-large container ships (ULCSs) emphasises the urgency to implement “the still awaited” adjustment of the navigation channel of the Lower and Outer Elbe.

He said: “We urgently require dredging of the channel so that ultra-large vessels in particular can be more flexibly handled, and transhipment cargo in the Port of Hamburg ensures employment at the terminals. After dredging of the channel, an ultra-large containership could transport up to 1,800 additional loaded containers (TEU).”

“From the safety aspect too, dredging of the channel that provides for a meeting box for mega-ships should produce advantages for traffic control on the Elbe,” Egloff added.

Following a technical failure on February 3, the 19,000 teu CSCL Indian Ocean run aground in the Elbe river, around 25 km ahead of the Port of Hamburg, for over five days.

After two failed attempts, the vessel was finally dragged back into the navigation channel by taking advantage of the high spring tide on February 9 in a 20-minute operation involving a total of 12 tugs.

According to local media, the incident has sparked controversy as local politicians, residents and environmentalists expressed concerns that the risk of incidents in the area is increasing alongside the size of vessels.