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Port of Hamburg reviews COVID-19 impact on throughput

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Dry Bulk,

The Port of Hamburg has published a review of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its 2020 throughput. A summary of the review can be found below.

Seaborne cargo throughput in the Port of Hamburg performed better than expected in the fourth quarter of 2020. The upward trend has been noticeable since the third quarter. Seaborne cargo throughput in the fourth quarter was even around 3% higher than in the same quarter the year before. Container throughput was just 1.2% lower year over year. However, total throughput in 2020 amounted to 126.3 million t, 7.6% below the high total of 136.6 million t 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).

For Ingo Egloff, Mattern’s Executive Board colleague, 2020 represented a special challenge for the entire port: “A tremendous combined effort enabled the port together with its terminals, logistics and service providers, and its transport connections with the hinterland to remain fully operational over the whole period. My thanks go to all those who, despite difficult conditions, perform their work with great commitment 24/7 in the Port of Hamburg and along the worldwide transport chains. Ship’s crews, skilled staff in the handling and logistics sector, pilots, and all others employed in the companies, public sector, and other organizations involved in the port industry make a valuable contribution to securing supplies for the people and the economy every day.”

Seaborne cargo handling in the Port of Hamburg in 2020

In 2020 as a whole, 126.3 million t of seaborne cargo were loaded or discharged at terminals in the Port of Hamburg. That represents a 7.6% downturn from the previous year’s excellent total. Both general cargo, down 7.9% at 87.8 million t, and bulk cargo, 6.7% lower at 38.5 million t, were affected. In container handling, the 2020 total of 8.5 million TEU (20 ft standard containers) was 7.9% below the previous year’s volume. “It is interesting that in Hamburg on the whole, imports, 7.8% lower at 4.4 million TEU, and exports, down 8.2% 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%. At 11.6%, the downturn in transhipment handling was steeper,” Mattern said.

Within the bulk cargo segment, agribulk developed positively, totalling 7.5 million t and increasing by 19.7%. Grain export was the main factor behind this growth. Up 198.6% to 2.2 million t, this contributed to excellent overall results in agribulk. Another factor was the 6.8% growth in oilseed imports, which accounted for 3.2 million t of cargo.

Decreases in steel output and coal-fired power generation led to downturns in imports of coal/coke, 35% lower at 4.7 million t, and ore, 4.4% lower at 9.5 million t. All in all, 19.4 million t of grabber cargo were handled in Hamburg, representing a 13.2% drop.

Throughput of liquid bulk cargo in 2020 was 8.4% lower at 11.6 million t, mostly due to lower imports of oil products and other liquids. A 15.7% growth rate for exports in the category ‘other liquid cargoes’, among them biofuels, could not fully offset this downturn.

Prospects for 2021

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 t and 8.7 million TEU should be attainable in what we hope will be an improving global situation.

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