Global political situation influences the result of the Port of Hamburg
International crises shaped seaborne cargo handling in the Port of Hamburg in 2022. The Hamburg terminals handled 119.9 million tons of sea freight. This corresponds to a minus of 6.8 percent compared to the previous year. Conventional general cargo developed positively with an increase of 11.2 percent to 1.4 million tons. However, general cargo handling fell to 83.7 million tons (-5.8 percent). This means that 36.2 million tons (-8.9 percent) of bulk goods went over the quay edges in the Port of Hamburg. “The war in Ukraine with the associated sanctions against Russia and the global problems in the supply chains due to the corona pandemic had an impact on handling at the Port of Hamburg over the course of the year. In addition, there were labor disputes in the port at the beginning of the second half of the year and very high inflation in the course of the autumn, which caused consumers’ buying mood to fall to a low point,” explains Axel Mattern, CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing. Both suction cargo (-6.0 percent/6.0 million tons) and grab cargo (-6.3 percent/20.2 million tons) as well as liquid cargo (-15.2 percent/10.0 million tons) register a minus.
While there were declining numbers in handling bulk goods last year, the Port of Hamburg is in the process of preparing for new products and volumes. The transformation into a modern energy hub has already begun. “In February 2022, we signed an agreement with Air Products, the world’s largest hydrogen producer, to explore opportunities to build a comprehensive hydrogen value chain across the Port of Hamburg. In November, Air Products and Mabanaft announced that Germany’s first large import terminal for green hydrogen is to be built on the Oiltanking Deutschland site in the Port of Hamburg. The Port of Hamburg is thus playing a pioneering role in hydrogen imports and is helping to secure Germany’s supply,” says Friedrich Stuhrmann, CCO at the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA). At the same time, the HPA is well on the way to becoming a climate-neutral port with the construction of shore power systems at both the cruise and container terminals, Stuhrmann added.
Different developments over the course of the year
In the Port of Hamburg, 8.3 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) went over the quayside last year. This corresponds to a minus of 5.1 percent compared to the previous year. When comparing the quarters, it is noticeable that container throughput developed positively up to the half-year point. However, in the second half of the year and especially in the fourth quarter (-12.3 percent), throughput fell sharply. “Typically in the last quarter of a year we see an increase in turnover as Christmas approaches. That didn’t happen last year. The main reasons for this were the increased energy costs and high inventories in industry,” explains Mattern. Correspondingly, the import of sea containers at 4.2 million TEU showed a minus of 6.1 percent. In comparison, 4.1 million TEU were exported in 2022.
China remains by far the number 1 trading partner
The top 10 list of partner countries for 2022 brings some positive surprises. Handling with Poland developed very positively with 294,000 TEU and an increase of almost 25 percent. This puts the country in 4th place. The volumes handled with Finland developed in a similarly positive manner. 213,000 TEU went through this trade, which corresponds to an increase of 22.3 percent. Finland is in sixth place. With an increase of 6.6 percent and a good 196,000 TEU, Canada is also sending a positive signal in the exchange of goods with the Port of Hamburg, rising from twelfth to ninth place.
China traditionally leads the top 10 list of partner countries this year as well with 2.46 million TEU (-3.8 percent). The USA followed in second place with 605,000 TEU, which corresponds to a minus of 2.1 percent. Nevertheless, the number of loaded boxes in container traffic with the USA increased by 0.6 percent to 540,000 TEU. Singapore consistently holds third place with 423,000 TEU (-1.1 percent).
In the expanded list of partner countries, both Sri Lanka and Malaysia stand out positively. Malaysia climbs to 13th place with a plus of 10.7 percent and handling of 177,000 TEU. With 128,000 TEU and an increase of 8.8 percent, Sri Lanka improved to 17th place. While last year Russia was still in 4th place among the top partner countries, the country is now in 27th place with a throughput of around 80,000 TEU.
Calls by Megamax container ships continue to increase
Ships in the so-called Megamax class with more than 18,000 TEU called at Hamburg a total of 234 times last year. The number rose by six percent. “The increasing number of Megamax container ships clearly shows that the fairway adjustment will continue to be accepted even with a temporarily reduced depth. The shipping companies quickly adapted to the new conditions,” says Mattern. Calls in the second largest category between 14,000 and 17,999 TEU increased by five percent. In the ship size class between 10,000 and 13,999 TEU, however, calls fell by 16.6 percent. In the case of large container ships, there was an overall decline of 1.2 percent to 486 calls.
Calls by medium-sized container ships with capacities between 8,000 and 9,999 TEU (very large container ships) increased by eleven percent. Only smaller container ships and feeders came into the port less frequently, especially in the second half of the year.
Hinterland traffic remains almost stable
A closer look at container throughput shows that transhipment traffic was responsible for more than 90 percent of the decline. Handling fell by 12.1 percent to 2.90 million TEU. Hinterland traffic, on the other hand, remained almost stable. The amount of TEU fell here by only 0.9 percent to 5.4 million TEU.
In the modal split of hinterland transport, Deutsche Bahn is able to maintain its leading position. More than half of all containers still went by rail. At 50.5 percent (-1 percentage point), the overall result is slightly down. However, with 2.7 million TEU, rail remains the most important mode of transport for the hinterland. Despite the decline of 2.8 percent, Deutsche Bahn achieved the second-best annual result in its history in this segment
When looking at the tonnage in the modal split of the hinterland traffic, the railways even increased by 1.1 percentage points and transported 53.9 percent of the goods. With 47.3 million tons, it was the third-best result after 2021 and 2019.
Outlook for 2023
The ongoing uncertain situation on the world markets makes it difficult to make a forecast for 2023. “We hope that the global economy will pick up again. This will also support and increase throughput in the Port of Hamburg,” sums up HHM board member Mattern. At the same time, all players in the Port of Hamburg will work actively on the transformation towards a climate-neutral, efficient and modern port.