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  • 2021 February 25 14:50

    Consequences of COVID pandemic affect the Port of Hamburg’s 2020 throughput

    Seaborne cargo throughput in the Port of Hamburg performed better than expected in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the company's release. The upward trend has been noticeable since the third quarter. Seaborne cargo throughput in the fourth quarter was even around three percent higher than in the same quarter the year before. Container throughput was just 1.2 percent lower year over year. However, total throughput in 2020 amounted to 126.3 million tons, 7.6 percent below the high total of 136.6 million tons reached in the previous year.

    The coronavirus pandemic was felt worldwide and had particularly serious effects on the Port of Hamburg in the first half of 2020. “The first six months were notable for reduced activity in many areas of the economy, weaker consumer demand, and a reduction in liner service sailings. In Hamburg, this caused a double-digit downturn in throughput. We are delighted that the second half brought a turnaround, with the total throughput in 2020 showing only a single-digit minus,” explained Axel Mattern, Joint CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing (HHM).

    In 2020 as a whole, 126.3 million tons of seaborne cargo were loaded or discharged at terminals in the Port of Hamburg. That represents a 7.6 percent downturn from the previous year’s excellent total. Both general cargo, down 7.9 percent at 87.8 million tons, and bulk cargo, 6.7 percent lower at 38.5 million tons, were affected. In container handling, the 2020 total of 8.5 million TEU (20-ft standard containers) was 7.9 percent below the previous year’s volume. “It is interesting that in Hamburg on the whole, imports, 7.8 percent lower at 4.4 million TEU, and exports, down 8.2 percent at 4.2 million TEU, showed similar developments. The sharp decline in imports from Asia in the first half of the year was one reason for this. The very stable trend in landside hinterland traffic is also notable, decreasing only 5.8 percent. At 11.6 percent, the downturn in transhipment handling was steeper,” Mattern said.

    Within the bulk cargo segment, agribulk developed positively, totalling 7.5 million tons and increasing by 19.7 percent. Grain export was the main factor behind this growth. Up 198.6 percent to 2.2 million tons, this contributed to excellent overall results in agribulk. Another factor was the 6.8 percent growth in oilseed imports, which accounted for 3.2 million tons of cargo.
    Decreases in steel output and coal-fired power generation led to downturns in imports of coal/coke, 35 percent lower at 4.7 million tons, and ore, 4.4 percent lower at 9.5 million tons. All in all, 19.4 million tons of grabber cargo were handled in Hamburg, representing a 13.2 percent drop.

    Throughput of liquid bulk cargo in 2020 was 8.4 percent lower at 11.6 million tons, mostly due to lower imports of oil products and other liquids. A 15.7 percent growth rate for exports in the category “other liquid cargoes,” among them biofuels, could not fully offset this downturn.
    Developments in container shipping with the Port of Hamburg’s ten most important trading partners varied a great deal in 2020. Particularly the 8.2 percent decline in seaborne container throughput for China, Hamburg’s top trading partner by far, could not be offset by positive development in trade with other regions. Furthermore, along with China some other countries also showed significant losses. Throughput for Russia decreased by 12.7 percent, for Sweden 8.6 percent, for South Korea 10.4 percent, and for Brazil 11.1 percent, while throughput with Poland was 7.3 percent lower.

    Among the Port of Hamburg’s Top Ten trading partners for container traffic that achieved growth were the USA (up 1.8 percent), Singapore (up 5.3 percent), the United Kingdom (up 28.2 percent), and Malaysia (up 6.0 percent). The USA ranks second for container traffic in Hamburg and reached a new record of 591,000 TEU in 2020. “The ongoing positive trend in container shipping to and from the USA is surprising, particularly against the background of the negative effects of the coronavirus on economic output and the falling demand there. The positive trend in container shipping for the United Kingdom, reaching a new record of 266,000 TEU, is due to an upturn in shipments for the German market and increased deliveries to the UK pre-Brexit,” Ingo Egloff explained.
    In 2020 Hamburg’s seaport-hinterland transport by rail accounted for a volume of 46.6 million tons and 2.6 million TEU, remaining fairly stable. The 4.4 percent decrease in containers transported by rail was considerably smaller than the drop in container throughput as a whole. “In terms of volume, 2020 was the third-best year, and in terms of the number of containers carried it was the second-best year in the history of the Hamburg Port Railway,” Mattern said. The railway was even able to increase its share of the modal split in seaport-hinterland traffic by 1.3 percent to 50.7 percent.
    The Port of Hamburg’s marketing organisation anticipates a generally more stable trend in seaborne cargo throughput in 2021. With the resumption of suspended liner sailings and additional new services, throughput of 130 million tons and 8.7 million TEU should be attainable in what we hope will be an improving global situation.

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