Europe’s leading port for Indian foreign trade


Being Germany’s largest universal port, Port of Hamburg receives an enormous fleet of ships skirting every year, which makes an advanced monitoring system inevitable in order to manage the smooth sailing and precise navigation of such a massive traffic. Axel Mattern, CEO, Port of Hamburg Marketing Association, elaborates on their secret to leadership presence, meticulous handling of 135.1 mn tones seaborne cargo last year, and much more on their exceptional track record.

How it is perfectly justified to hail Port of Hamburg as Germany’s gateway to the world in terms of its strategic location and throughput?

Port of Hamburg claims the arrival of around 8,000 ships  every year, almost 300 berths and a total of 43 kilometers of quay for seagoing vessels, more than 2,300 freight trains per week, four state-of-the-art container terminals, three cruise terminals and around 50 facilities specialised in handling Ro-Ro operations and all kinds of bulk cargoes, along with about 7,300 logistics companies within the city limits – these are just a few of the factors making it one of the world’s most flexible, high-performance universal ports.

More than 100 liner services connect Hamburg with the great majority of more than 1,000 seaports – plus others via transshipment – worldwide. With throughput of 9.9 mn tonnes in 2018, Hamburg is also Germany’s second largest inland port.

Handling 135.1 mn tonnes of seaborne cargo, Germany’s largest universal port with over 75 terminals, handling over 18,000 ocean-going and inland waterway ships per year reported a respectable result for 2018. Hamburg successfully asserted itself in a difficult environment, achieving a distinct advance on rail borne seaport-hinterland transport. In 2018, this category accounted for total of 46.8 mn tonnes – up 2.7 per cent – and 2.44 mn TEU – up 4.7 per cent. More than 60,000 cargo trains with around 1.6 mn freight cars were handled during 2018 on the Port Railway network alone. This topped the record total set in 2016 and extended Hamburg’s position as Europe’s leading rail port.

Brief us about the fairway adjustment of Elbe, How it is going to facilitate the movement of ships through the channel?

For the Elbe and port pilots, the 65 per cent increase in the number of calls by what are known as extraordinarily large vessels – German: AGFs – represents a challenge. Whereas in 2008, around 600 ships in this class berthed in Hamburg, meanwhile more than 1000 do so. AGFs are vessels with a length of over 330 metres and a breadth of over 45 metres. These are subject to numerous restrictions along the 120km stretch of the River Elbe between the estuary and the boundary of the Port of Hamburg, which must be exactly observed. The navigation channel needs to be extended so that vessels are able to enter and leave the port of Hamburg with one metre more draught. To enable inbound and outbound ships to pass each other more easily, the navigation channel will be widened in some places and a special passing box will be created, especially for wide vessels, thus reducing or even eliminating waiting times. The fairway between Wedel and the Stör/Elbe confluence will be widened from 300 to 320 metres. This will allow ships of an added width of 92 meters to safely pass by or overtake each other. In addition, the passing box will be built along 8 kms near Wedel. It will be 385 meters wide and will allow up to 4 large containerships per tide to approach each other.

The construction of the new culvert on the Elbe island of Neßsand began in mid-July. The culvert will be drilled under the Elbe and will probably be finished early this December.

The suction dredger Scheldt River off Wedel started on July 7 this year with the wet dredging of the fairway adjustment. The work is expected to be completed by 2021, while the construction work for the new front light in Blankenese has started on October 9. As a first step, a bridge abutment is erected on the banks of the Elbe.

We are Germany’s largest universal port with over 75 terminals, and handling 135.1 mn tonnes of seaborne cargo and over 18,000 ocean-going and inland waterway ships per year.

What are the unique practices employed by Port of Hamburg in order handle the movement of vast network of ships and various other port operations?

All companies involved in the transport chain are network digitally and can thus accelerate processes. The Hamburg Vessel Coordination Center (HVCC) is an example of how well networking between different companies and institutions in Hamburg works. The interface benefits ship owners, nautical headquarters, competing terminals and inland shipping. HVCC brings together the relevant data of the various players, interprets it and creates a forward-looking situation picture of ships approaching the port which is then available to the parties involved, making ship handling at the port even smoother.

Having a roadmap to sustainable logistics has become inevitable in present times, what are the initiatives taken by Hamburg port to curb the carbon emissions?

Hamburg’s state government has approved a large-scale expansion of shore-based power supply in the Port of Hamburg. This will create the conditions for a shift from shipboard diesel power supply to ecological electric power during lay times. It will be extended to all existing cruise terminals. With this expansion, Hamburg is playing a pioneering role in the field of alternative power supply during ship’s lay times at the port. As the first port in Europe, the Port of Hamburg will offer shore-based power supply both for cruise liners and mega-containerships from 2022.

In the first half of 2019, 106,000 TEU- 20-ft standard containers were handled in Hamburg on direct services with Indian ports, a gain of 17 per cent.

Recently Hamburg- India business day was celebrated at the Chamber of Commerce. What are the key takeaways from the session with regard to maritime trade and cultural exchange between the two countries?

Hamburg and India have been connected by trade for centuries. More than 50 Indian companies have a branch in Hamburg; about 140 Hamburg companies have a branch in India.

With India Week Hamburg, we celebrated our longstanding relationship with the world’s largest democracy, ranging from culture and sports to politics and business. The participants cultivate and promote the traditionally good connections between Hamburg and the Indian subcontinent. The focus was on ‘Sustainability’.

Aviation, infrastructure, insurance, IT, healthcare, maritime transport, ports, shipping and renewable energies are areas that offer potential for the development of relations between India and Germany in general and India and Hamburg in particular.

What is the share of India in the total amount of cargo handled by Hamburg port as of now and how do you see it in near future?

In the first half of 2019, 106,000 TEU- 20-ft standard containers were handled in Hamburg on direct services with Indian ports, a gain of 17 per cent.

With Hapag-Lloyd and its partner ship-owners ONE, YML and COSCO offering an additional weekly sailing from Hamburg on the IEX- South-East India–Europe Express service from November onwards, the prospects for further growth seems good. Ten liner services link the Port of Hamburg with India. Of these, four are container liner services, three are Ro-Ro services transporting vehicles, and three are general cargo services which also carry heavy cargo, and plant and project shipments.


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