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The Port of Hamburg’s volumes show signs of turnaround 24 November 2020

Q3 container throughput down 4.9%, as 9M numbers decrease 9.9%

At a rate of 8.0%, the decline in seaborne cargo in Germany’s largest universal port lessened considerably in Q3 compared to Q2. The Port of Hamburg had shown a 16.2% loss in that quarter. The negative effects of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic are still affecting developments in the Port of Hamburg’s cargo throughput.

However, results in Q3 give reason to be optimistic that the double-digit decrease in turnover has ended. It resulted in particular from a downswing in numerous economic sectors and lower demand for consumer goods.

In the first three quarters of the year, 93.2 million metric tons of seaborne cargo were loaded or discharged in the Port of Hamburg’s terminals. That marks a drop of 10.7% compared to the previous year. Both major segments of cargo throughput were affected and remained significantly below the levels reached a year earlier. General cargo declined 9.9% to 65.2 million tons and bulk cargo was down 12.4% to 28.0 million tons. In container throughput, 6.3 million TEU (20-foot standard container units) were handled on Hamburg’s quays in the first three quarters. That represents an annualised decrease of 9.9%.

Developments in container traffic in the first three quarters varied among the Port of Hamburg’s ten most important trade partners. Positive developments in trade with other countries could not make up for the 11.3% drop in seaborne container shipping with China, which is Hamburg’s most important trade partner by far. Furthermore, Hamburg’s seaborne container throughput for other countries besides China also showed up to double-digit decreases: Russia (-15.1%), Sweden (-11.8%), South Korea (-11.8%), Denmark (-3.4%), and Poland (-9.6%).

Countries among the Port of Hamburg’s top ten trade partners that showed growth in container traffic were Singapore (up 7.1%), the UK (up 41.0%), and Malaysia (up 5.5%), along with the US (up 0.1%). The US ranks second for container throughput in Hamburg and still showed growth in the first three quarters of the year with a total of 439,000 TEU.

The ongoing positive development in container traffic for the US is surprising in light of the economy, which is suffering from the effects of the pandemic and the decline in demand. The growth in container shipping for Great Britain is based on an upswing in inbound empty containers for the German market and increased shipments to Great Britain in advance of the impending Brexit.

All in all, imports via the Port of Hamburg decreased by 14.4%, while exports were down by 5.5%. A drop in steel production was responsible for lower volumes in ore and coal imports. On the other hand, agribulk showed positive growth during the first three quarters, reaching a volume of 5.6 million tons, an increase of 20.1%. Significantly higher exports of grain and fertilisers were the main causes of this very favourable development in cargo throughput.