With 110 million tons of sea-borne cargo handled in 2009, a year impacted by the global economic and financial markets crisis, Germany’s biggest universal port fell short of the previous year’s result by around 30 million tons (- 21.4 percent). Improvements are in sight for the year 2010, and port-related industries anticipate a moderate level of growth.
Claudia Roller, Chairwoman of Port of Hamburg Marketing Association presented the cargo-handling figures for 2009 at the annual Port of Hamburg press conference. “With a total transshipment volume of 110.4 million tons in what was a difficult year for the entire port-related industries and shipping sector, we recorded an exceptionally severe decline in the history of our port to date. In the period from January to December 2009, the terminals at the Port of Hamburg handled some 30 million tons of cargo less than in the year 2008. However, since the third quarter of 2009, we have seen initial signs of a stabilizing trend, and we are now witnessing a slight upward trend again,” said Roller. “An evaluation of the figures for sea-borne cargo handling in the fourth quarter of 2009 showed that in the second half of the year, transshipments of sea-borne cargo picked up by 3.7 per cent compared with the first half of the year. The negative trend has bottomed out, and the Port of Hamburg is once again headed for moderate growth,” said Roller confidently.
The fact that the global economy is emerging from the deepest recession in decades more quickly than anticipated last year is also the subject of forecasts in current publications by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “We take the view that Germany’s export-intensive economy will benefit from the growth in global trade as early as 2010. An additional factor here is that the People’s Republic of China, the key foreign trade partner for the Port of Hamburg, will generate increasing merchandise flows carried by sea as their export sector picks up again. As Germany’s biggest universal port and the most significant hub for traffic between Asia and China on the one hand, and northern Europe and the Baltic states on the other, the Port of Hamburg will benefit from these positive trends as early as the year 2010, and we can expect overall growth to reach three to four per cent,” said Roller.
Jens Meier, Managing Director of the Hamburg Port Authority, emphasized in his statement that “the foundations for a successful future for the Port of Hamburg must be laid right now.”
The new Port Development Plan currently being drawn up by the HPA is being conceived in circumstances that are quite different from those in the past; as a result, global trends are also being taken into account in developing the new strategy for the port. Initial findings from an investigation carried out by a reputable business consultancy firm indicate, for example, that exploitation of the port's cargo-handling potential through a greater focus on growth regions constitutes an important success factor within the scope of developing the port. Another factor is the increase in value added by attracting sustainable, viable port-related industries in a targeted fashion. The evaluation of this study, a companion document to the Port Development Plan, will be carried out in coming months.
Hamburg‘s State Minister of Economic and Labor Affairs, Axel Gedaschko, emphasized that port investments will not be shorten and that the City of Hamburg will come up with about one billion Euros. The efforts initiated by authorities together with port-related industries to increase competitiveness of the Port of Hamburg already lead to positive results. Those who are responsible for upgrading the fairway in the Outer and Lower Elbe agreed on a determinate schedule and the senator is expecting a final resolution in autumn 2010. First operations on river dams near Otterndorf should commence in the course of this year. Gedaschko excluded any cooperation for Hamburg with the container port of Wilhelmshaven that is being built. In close collaboration with neighboring countries Hamburg is active in implementation of the national port concept as well as the River Elbe port concept. Thanks to worldwide activities of Port of Hamburg Marketing Association the Port as well as regional partner ports and trading hubs alongside the River Elbe are very well positioned.
Overview of 2009, a difficult year for the port
On the imports side, Port of Hamburg Marketing Association – the marketing organization of the Port of Hamburg – recorded cargo-handling figures of 62.2 million tons (- 24.2 per cent).
Exports via Hamburg also declined compared with the same period of last year, with a total of 48.2 million tons (- 17.4 per cent). The effects of the global economic slump hit general cargo, the dominant segment for the Port of Hamburg with 73.6 million tons (- 24.8 per cent), more severely than bulk cargo handling, which amounted to a total of 36.8 million tons (- 13.4 per cent) for 2009. Container transshipments at the Port of Hamburg for the period under review totaled 71.2 million tons (- 25.1 per cent). In terms of TEU (20-foot standard containers), this was equivalent to 7.01 million TEU (- 28.0 per cent).
Asia remained the most important route for container traffic for the Port of Hamburg in 2009, with a total of 4.2 million TEU (- 24.3 per cent) handled in traffic to and from Asia. This is a reduction by about 1.3 million TEU compared with the same period a year earlier. As a large proportion of this Asian import and export cargo carried by ship and passing through Hamburg en route to other European ports is handled by way of transshipments using feeder services, the 1.4 million tons in container traffic with the Baltic states also falls short of the previous year’s result, by around 43.8 per cent.
“Aside from a slump in ore and coal imports, bulk cargo handling also produced some positive figures for the port: total exports of bulk cargoes such as suction, grabbable and liquid cargoes amounted to 11.3 million tons – an increase of 6.3 per cent,” explained Claudia Roller. She was confident that despite the drop in cargo-handling volumes in seaports around the world prompted by the financial and economic crisis, there would be increasing demand for the wide range of port and logistics services on offer within the Port of Hamburg.
She added that the business and infrastructure investments already under way would also help to create the right conditions for further growth. What will still be of utmost importance for Hamburg’s port-related industries is the absolute necessity to upgrade the fairway in the Outer and Lower Elbe, which will also benefit the entire region and the export-oriented German and European economies. “The Port of Hamburg and its efficient transport links perform a vital distribution function as a hub between land-based and sea-going traffic for foreign trade in Germany and in our neighboring countries in central and eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia. The international shipping companies, which are already deploying increasing numbers of large container ships in their scheduled liner services to and from Hamburg, are counting on the speedy implementation of the measures to upgrade the fairway. The number of large container ships with a carrying capacity of more than 10,000 TEU calling at the Port of Hamburg had already jumped from 29 to 69 in 2009,” Roller explained.
Marketing competence as an exit route from the crisis
Claudia Roller is convinced that the Port of Hamburg will be able to exploit the opportunities inherent in the economic crisis. “The Port of Hamburg needs to market its strengths in an effort to succeed in the face of international competition. For us at Port of Hamburg Marketing Association, this is our top priority. We can successfully position the port location and the surrounding metropolitan region in the market by highlighting the ecological and economic benefits of the efficient transport chains to and from Hamburg, the further optimization of the network of hinterland connections, and northern Europe’s most highly developed network of feeder connections with the Baltic Sea region, and by promoting these assets intensively and in a targeted manner,” explained the HHM marketing specialist. Over recent weeks and months, HHM has registered growing interest in membership in the association and its activities, and it is stepping up its marketing program for the year 2010 with more than 60 customer events, participation at numerous international trade fairs, more market research and a stronger image marketing campaign. There will also be greater participation by HHM partner ports and member companies based in the Elbe region and in the hinterland. “The relocation of our main office to the Speicherstadt warehouse district has brought us even closer to our members in the Port of Hamburg, and we will make the most of the outstanding infrastructure at our new location in carrying out our daily marketing activities in the service of the seaport-related industries in Hamburg and the surrounding region,” emphasized Claudia Roller.