Hamburg Forecasts Beginning of Recovery

Hamburg forecasts beginning of recovery in volumes
CMA CGM Alexander von Humboldt and the CSCL Venus passing in Hamburg - Peter Glaubitt port courtesy of HH

Published Nov 24, 2020 8:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Hamburg, one of Europe’s busiest ports, reported that its volume declines are slowing versus earlier in the year, but persisted in the third quarter of 2020. While the economic impact of the pandemic has hit the port especially hard and it is has lagged in the rebound other ports have experienced, Hamburg is now reporting that it believes a recovery is now underway.

A range of factors is being cited as contributing to the declines in volumes the port experienced. The negative effects of the pandemic are reported to be still affecting developments in the Port of Hamburg’s cargo throughput. Port officials cited a downsizing in numerous economic sectors and lower demand for consumer goods. A drop in steel production was cited as the reason for lower volumes in ore and coal imports, while the agribulk reported strong growth in the first nine months of 2020. Significantly higher exports of grain and fertilizers were cited as the main contributors to cargo throughput volumes.

The rate of decline was halved during the third quarter with the port reporting an eight percent decline in total throughput and a nearly five percent decline in container volume to 2.3 million TEUs. That compared with a more than 16 percent decline in volume in the second quarter of 2020. 

Their assessment of the current situation is that the improvements experienced during the third quarter are the beginning of a recovery similar to what many other ports have also begun to report. They are forecasting that the double-digit decreases have ended.

“We have seen a stabilization in the development of throughput since July and with it a lower overall decrease in seaborne cargo handling in the Port of Hamburg. The reasons can be found in the lower rate of infections during the summer and the resulting easing of measures to check the pandemic, along with shipping to fill up stockpiles for the Christmas trade,” Axel Mattern, joint CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing. 

In the first three quarters of the year, 93.2 million metric tons of seaborne cargo were loaded or discharged at the Port of Hamburg’s terminals. That marks a drop of 10.7 percent compared to the previous year. The port experienced nearly equal rates of decline for volumes of bulk cargo and container throughput contributing to a nearly 10 percent decline in general cargo year to date 2020.

The Port of Hamburg is reporting declines with many key training partners. This includes lower volume in container shipping with China as well as lower throughputs for Russia, Sweden, South Korea, Denmark, and Poland. The port however experienced strong increases in traffic with the UK in advance of Brexit as well as growth in container traffic with Singapore and Malaysia. Volume with the United States was flat year-over-year.

“Despite the ongoing recovery since mid-year, we will not be able to reach the high level achieved last year,” concluded Ingo Egloff, joint CEO with Alex Mattern. “But developments since July give reason to hope that we will show just single-digit losses at the end of the year.”