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Hamburg draught restrictions result in market share loss to rivals ports

THE advent of 20,000-TEU mega ships has resulted in "a steady shift of market share" from Germany's gateway Port of Hamburg to rivals Rotterdam, Antwerp and Wilhelmshaven.

The latest Global Port Tracker for North Europe anticipates container imports in Hamburg will fall by 5.1 per cent in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period of 2018.

Hamburg has yet to publish its final throughput figures for 2018, but at the nine-month stage the total volume handled at its container terminals was 2.4 per cent lower than the previous year at 6.6 million TEU, reports London's Loadstar.

Meanwhile, Rotterdam and Antwerp saw their throughputs rise 5.7 per cent and 6.8 per cent respectively year on year.

The monthly report, compiled by Hackett Associates in conjunction with Bremen's Institute of Shipping Economics & Logistics (ISL), suggests the long-awaited commencement of the deepening of the Elbe may have come too late to stop the two Benelux ports gaining a vice-like grip on Hamburg's traditional hinterland.

ISL's Sonke Maatsch said that during previous quarters Global Port Tracker had recorded "a steady shift of market share away" from the German ports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven to Rotterdam and Antwerp, although there had been some business that had transferred to the new deepwater port at Wilhelmshaven.

"Due to their geographic location, the German ports are seldom the first call on intercontinental liner services, so some of the vessel's import cargo is already discharged," said Mr Maatsch.

This, he said, meant the incoming ships would have a draught of some one-to-two metres less on their arrival in Germany, after lightening their load. But, "this is still too much" for the 20,000 TEU-plus giants, argued Mr Maatsch.

"First, we saw transshipments move from the German ports to Rotterdam and Antwerp, so the Asia services could still call in Hamburg or Bremerhaven," said the analyst, "but recently we see an increasing number of ships turning in Antwerp and Rotterdam."

Although carriers cannot afford to skip the German ports altogether, Mr Maatsch noted that the alliances were increasingly using transshipment or "interlining strategies to avoid the need to call there with every line."

He said: "Once more the liner operators have set the bar higher for ports," adding that even after the Elbe is dredged to a "tide-independent draught of 13.5 metres," this would still some way shy of the maximum draught of the latest ULCVs 16 metres.

Source: Schednet

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