Hamburg’s container traffic slipped 1.7 percent in 2012 from 2011 on sharply lower Asian imports, but Germany’s largest port expects cargo to grow again this year on rising European demand and stronger trade flows in its key overseas markets.
At 8.9 million 20-foot-equivalent units, Hamburg’s throughput was sufficient for the port to retain its ranking as Europe’s second-largest container hub ahead of Antwerp, which posted a 0.3 percent decline to 8.64 million TEUs.
Both ports lost market share to Rotterdam, where container traffic was unchanged in 2012 at 11.9 million TEUs.
Hamburg’s total traffic dipped 1 percent from a record 2011 to 130.9 million metric tons, as a 3 percent drop in imports outweighed a 1.9 percent gain in export volume.
“With demand again picking up in Europe and foreign trade gathering strength in our most significant markets abroad, for 2013, growth in total throughput can be expected,” said Claudia Roller, CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing.
Exports of loaded containers grew 4.4 percent to 3.8 million TEUs, compensating for a 3.6 percent downturn in imports to 3.8 million TEUs. A 12.1 percent decline in empty boxes to 1.2 million TEUs was largely responsible for the drop in overall traffic.
The key Asia trade fell 8.6 percent to 4.7 million TEUs because of economic weakness in Europe, the lack of a Christmas peak season and a cooling of China’s foreign trade.
U.S. trade posted the biggest growth in 2012, up 28.1 percent at 380,000 TEUs, to become Hamburg’s fourth-largest trade partner. Traffic with Russia, Hamburg’s second-largest customer, grew 13.3 percent to 675,000 TEUs.
Conventional cargo traffic fell 15.6 percent to 2.1 million tons as a 34.6 percent collapse in imports to 730,000 tons overwhelmed a 0.1 percent rise in exports, mainly cars and paper, to 1.4 million tons.