Blank sailings hit HHLA hard

Blank sailings hit HHLA hard
Volumes fell 11% in the first half of 2020

The huge global drop in economy activity and the resulting downturn in the first half of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic has heavily impacted Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA), with significant falls in volume and revenue.

In the container segment, throughput at HHLA’s container terminals declined by 11% to 3,345,000 teu. Of this total, 3,058,000 teu was handled at the three Hamburg terminals, representing a 12% decrease, mainly due to blank sailings as a result of COVID-19.

The blank sailings led to a considerable fall in cargo volumes from the Far East while feeder traffic with the Baltic region decreased markedly and could not be offset by growth in the German and British shipping regions.

Revenue in the container segment decreased by 10% to €363m (US$430m), primarily due to the decreases in volume caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Average revenue per container handled at the quayside rose by 2%, resulting from an advantageous modal split with a high proportion of hinterland volumes and a temporary increase in storage fees due to longer dwell times brought about by weather-related delays and blank sailings caused by the pandemic.

The reduction in volumes led the operating result (EBIT) to drop by 49% to €37m (US$44m).

Angela Titzrath, chairwoman of HHLA’s executive board, said: “The measures imposed in the second quarter in order to contain the coronavirus pandemic have posed unprecedented challenges for society and business. As a company which forms part of the critical logistics chain infrastructure, we have nonetheless consistently upheld our responsibility and reliably maintained supply routes in Germany and Europe.

“By means of prudent cost reductions and restraint in our capital expenditure, we have sought to limit the strong impact of the crisis on our performance and to be ready once the situation eases again. We currently envisage a gradual recovery over the second half of the year.”

She highlighted that rather than receiving the usual cash dividend, shareholders can opt to receive class A shares in the company instead, in a move to boost liquidity.

Liquidity remains “sufficient in order to meet our payment obligations despite the strains placed on us by the pandemic,” added Titzrath.

Across all segments, the group’s revenue declined by 9% to €628m (US$744m), with the operating result plummeting by 52% to €59m (US$70m).

In the intermodal segment, container transport decreased by 8% to 718,000 teu, with a marked decline in road transport, largely due to weak growth in the Hamburg region and a persistently challenging market environment.

With regards to rail, strong growth in continental traffic partially offset the fall in maritime transport from both North German and Adriatic seaports.