News / Hamburg Q1 throughput suffers, but port has faith ‘things will pick up’

first_img Germany’s largest port, Hamburg, saw throughput at its container terminals in the first quarter decline 6.6% decline, year on year, to 2.2m teu.However, there could be worse to come in quarter two as a result of consumer lockdowns in Europe and the subsequent plunge in transhipment cargo for the Baltic.Trade with China accounted for around a quarter of Hamburg’s 9.3m teu last year, so volume was particularly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and extended new year holiday lockdown in the Asian manufacturing powerhouse.“The partial shutdown of the Chinese economy, resulting in blank sailings, has led to lower cargo handling,” said Axel Mattern joint CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing, commenting on the 14.6% year-on-year decline in Chinese imports to 579,400 teu.Mr Mattern said that “for the next few months”, Hamburg would need to “adapt to a continuation of blank sailings and falling throughput”.Indeed, having blanked 18% of Asia to Europe sailings in April, according to eeSea data, ocean carriers have so far withdrawn 28% of headhaul capacity this month and cancelled 17% of capacity in June.Hamburg is the main transhipment hub for the Baltic Sea and Scandinavia, encouraging a vast network of carrier and commercial feeder connections; but this sector was also badly impacted in the first quarter, down 10.8% on the previous year, to 772,000 teu.Last week, its main container terminal operator, HHLA, reported that its first-quarter volumes had declined 4.1% to 1.65m teu. and last week The Loadstar reported that Hapag-Lloyd had decided to suspend three of its six Baltic feeder services.A customer advisory from THE Alliance partner ONE, with which Hapag-Lloyd has feeder cooperation agreements in both Europe and Asia, said the GTE, SDX and REX services operated by the German carrier would be suspended at the end of the month for “approximately six months”.However, Mr Mattern is optimistic of a relatively quick recovery for the port. He said: “From June, it is entirely possible that with a gradual pick-up in the economy in China and Europe, we shall be seeing an increase in sailings and rising volumes on port throughput and seaport-hinterland services.”In this optimistic scenario carriers, such as Hapag-Lloyd, that will have off-hired feeder tonnage as part of their radical cost-cutting strategies, will turn to commercial feeder operators, such as Unifeeder, to cover the rebuilding of their transhipment business.It is also possible that in the ‘new normal’ post-coronavirus period that ocean carriers will not have the same appetite for running their own dedicated feeder services.A carrier source told The Loadstar recently that reducing the number of owned feeders was “high on the agenda”.“We have all got carried away with the so-called prestige of operating our own feeders,” he said. “But it is another cost variable that I think that we are going to want to dispense with if, as seems likely, it’s going to be well into next year before we see much of a recovery in demand.“We have run several models of the pros and cons of owning feeders and, for now anyway, they just do not make sense and are another risk that we simply cannot afford,” he added. ID 154630563 © Hieronymusukkel | Dreamstime.com By Mike Wackett 18/05/2020last_img

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