Port of Hamburg’s cargo volumes hit by COVID-19

Germany’s largest universal port, the Port of Hamburg, felt the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the first half of this year.

Image Courtesy: Port of Hamburg/Falcon Crest Air

In the first six months of 2020, seaborne cargoes loaded/discharged at its terminals totalled just 61.2 million tonnes, representing a 12 per cent downturn compared to 69.6 million tonnes reported last year.

Both the main elements of throughput were hit, being well down on last year’s excellent figures. Imports saw the largest volume fall on the previous year. These were 16.3 per cent lower in the first six months at 33.7 million tonnes, being considerably weaker than exports totalling 27.5 million tonnes, the downturn here being limited to a single-figure 6.1 per cent.

General cargo handling was 12.2 per cent lower at 42.5 million tonnes, bulk cargo handling 11.7 per cent down at 18.7 million tonnes.

In the container handling segment, a total of 4.1 million TEU – 20-ft standard containers – were shifted across the quaywalls, a 12.4 per cent fall on the previous year. This was due to the slowdown of the Chinese economy and the consequent cancellations of sailings.

“We are naturally not pleased about this trend, but the drop in first-half throughput caused by the pandemic seriously affected all ports in Northern Europe,” Axel Mattern, Joint CEO, Port of Hamburg Marketing, commented.

“Owing to the weakness of the world economy and some withdrawals or considerable delays of global supply chains, as expected the effect turned out to be more severe in the second quarter than in the first three months.”

Despite challenges, the port continues to provide cargo-handling and logistics services on a 24/7 basis.

 “With its cargo-handling terminals, logistics and service providers, and its hinterland transport services, the port remains fully operational,” Mattern added.

For the next few months, Axel Mattern and Ingo Egloff, his fellow CEO, assume that initially, the Port of Hamburg can adapt to a continuation of blank sailings and a slow recovery in total throughput.

“In the past two months, a stabilization of vessel sailings has been achieved. With the economy in China and Europe gradually picking up, I am confident that we have meanwhile reached the lowest point of the fall in seaborne cargo throughput caused by the pandemic, and will see a first noticeable recovery and improvement in the situation by the end of the year,” Egloff said.

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