The ‘CMA CGM Antoine de Saint Exupéry', the largest containership ever to call at the port on the Elbe, berthed in Hamburg early on Thursday morning, 15 March.
The maiden call by this ocean-going giant is a further milestone in the Port of Hamburg’s success story as one of the world’s most important and state-of-the-art container handling hubs.
The triumphant advance of the container, which has revolutionized the worldwide transport industry, commenced in the Port of Hamburg on 31 May 1968. With the ‘American Lancer', a containership berthed at Burchardkai for the first time that day. It was the first step in a new era that was to shape change in the Port of Hamburg for ever.
Scepticism predominated in Hamburg at the time. Would the new transport system with its normed boxes gain acceptance? Would the investments in expanding the Port of Hamburg into a container handling port pay off?
Today we realize that if visionary politicians and port managers had not shown the courage at the end of the 1960s to make Hamburg fit for the container, then the port would by no means certainly have become a significant cargo-handling hub in world trade.
Container handling with an annual volume of almost nine million boxes is now the foremost cargo segment. The Port of Hamburg is Germany’s largest universal port and the leading transhipment centre for Germany as an exporting country. The port is also Northern Germany
’s leading employer, securing more than 155,000 jobs in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region.
Over the past 50 years, the Port of Hamburg has successfully adapted to new market conditions in order to retain and expand its competitive position. A comparison between the ‘American Lancer' and the ‘CMA CGM Antoine de Saint Exupéry' illustrates the pace of change.
With a length of 213 metres, the ‘American Lancer' could transport just 1,200 TEU (20-ft standard containers); 400 metres long, the ‘CMA CGM Antoine de Saint Exupéry' has a capacity seventeen times higher at 20,776 TEU. End-to-end, those containers would cover a distance of over 125 kilometres. During her first call at HHLA Container Terminal Burchardkai (CTB), the mega-ship will be discharging approx. 7,000 TEU and loading 4,000. Cutting-edge technology and a highly efficient hinterland network guarantee safe, reliable and punctual clearance.
CMA CGM is one of the major global players among container shipping companies, and has been one of the Port of Hamburg’s top customers for years. This French shipping line serves the Port of Hamburg with ten liner services using
its own ships, participating in a further eleven through slot booking agreements.
Last year the Port of Hamburg reported over 930 calls by CMA CGM vessels. The first one to visit the Hanseatic City was the ‘KATJANA’ in 1983, a multi-purpose ship with its own handling gear and a capacity of 802 TEU. With a length of 147 metres, on that occasion the ship handled almost 50 containers in Hamburg.
“Growth in containership size has rapidly picked up speed in recent years,” says Andreas Brummermann, Deputy Port Captain. “However, the Port of Hamburg is very well prepared for these VLCVs.” Around 9,000 seagoing ships a year reach the Port of Hamburg, about half of these being containerships. Since the first calls in 2015, the number of vessels with a slot capacity of over 18,000 TEU has tripled. In 2017 alone, there were 102 calls by VLCVs in the 18,000-20,000+ TEU segment, or an increase of over 52 percent. This trend involves challenges, not just for Hamburg, but for ports worldwide.
How does the container’s future look in Hamburg? In the Port of Hamburg the process of containerization is all but completed – 98 percent of general cargoes handled in Hamburg are meanwhile transported in containers.