HHLA, Hamburg's biggest stevedore, reported first quarter profit and revenue shrunk from a year ago but said container traffic is picking up.
Operating profit slumped 30.6 percent to $45 million from $64.8 million on revenue 7 percent lower at $303 million.
Container traffic at HHLA terminals in Hamburg and Odessa, Ukraine, rose just 0.5 percent in the quarter to 1.25 million 20-foot equivalent units in sharp contrast with double digit increases at rival terminal operators in the northwest European port range.
But "HHLA will remain profitable and economically stable in the current year, Klaus-Dieter Peters, chairman of HHLA's executive board, said.
The recovery in container traffic accelerated toward the end of the quarter, and if it continues at the current rate, HHLA expects volume to grow "in the upper single-digit percentage range for 2010 as a whole."
But the company cautioned that the port of Hamburg was vulnerable to regional developments that could stall recovery.
The modest and delayed recovery in many Central and East European countries dampens prospects for short-term growth of container traffic through Hamburg, the region's main export/import hub.
With the growing number of ever larger container ships, the delay in the planned deepening of the Elbe waterway is a "growing burden" for Hamburg, HHLA said.
HHLA will open a "cutting edge mega-container ship" berth in Hamburg later in the year and start building a network of inland maritime container terminals in Germany in a joint venture with its Bremen-based rival Eurogate.
-- Contact Bruce Barnard at firstname.lastname@example.org.