Hamburg’s container traffic dipped 0.6.percent in the first three quarters of 2012 from a year ago as a slump in Asian imports offset increased exports on other key routes.
The German port handled 6.7 million 20-foot-equivalent units in the nine months through end-September, helping it to maintain its ranking as Europe’s second largest box hub behind Rotterdam, and ahead of Antwerp.
Total throughput decreased 0.8 percent from the first nine months of 2011 to 69.2 million metric tons.
Asian container traffic, Hamburg’s biggest box market, declined 8.3 percent to 3.6 million TEUs due to the deepening eurozone crisis and a cooling of China’s trade trade, the port authority said.
Trade with mainland China fell by 11.6 percent to 2 million TEUs.
Traffic rose on all other routes and almost cancelled out the fall in Asian volumes. Feeder shipments between Hamburg and other European ports rose 7.3 percent to 2.1 million TEUs and traffic on the America trades surged 16.8 percent to 856,000 TEUs.
The port hailed an “enormous” increase in traffic with the U.S., which was 46.9 percent higher at 290,000 TEUs, making the U.S. Hamburg’s fourth most important trading partner in containers.
Conventional general cargo slumped 15.4 percent to 1.6 million tons as a 2.6 percent rise in exports to 1 million tons, which was driven by heavy-lift, project cargo and vehicles, was offset by a 36.2 percent collapse in imports to 545,000 tons.
The port is forecasting full year container traffic of 9 million TEUs and total throughput of around 132 million tons, said Claudia Roller, CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing.
Roller said deepening of the navigation channel in the river Elbe that connects Hamburg to the open sea, allowing it to handle the largest container ship regardless of tidal conditions, is “the top priority” to drive further growth.
The port suffered a setback in October when a federal court halted work on the project to consider legal challenges by environmentalist.