Maritime Traffic and Port Economy

continued from » Financial Sector

Port in Shanghai - the world's largest port

The global structural change had great influence on logistical integration of transportation chains. Sea ports became hubs (hub-spoke-system).

Transport costs don’t matter anymore because of cost degression, e.g. the more goods are transported on huge container ship the less the costs. The size of these ships are tend to grow so ports need to keep growing with them and to adapt to developments of bigger ships (bigger water depth, turning basins, quay length, container gantry, infrastructure in general). Container ships loaded with goods of more 10,000 TEU (= Twenty Food Equivalent Unit) are said to increase from 3.7% (2009) to 14.1% (2013).

According to the web page, in 2010 Shanghai reached the “pole position” as the biggest port in the world (cargo handling: 29.07 million TEU), number two is Singapore with 28.43 million TEU. Asia (almost just Chinese ports and excluding Japan) has the most important and biggest ports (the first eight places in the ranking). The biggest European port is Rotterdam (number ten in the ranking) with 11.14 million TEU followed by the now second biggest port Hamburg with about 9 million TEU (number 14 in the ranking). Hamburg recently overtook Antwerp. (cf. Number seventeen is filled by the first US port – Los Angeles, before the first Japanese port – number 25 (Tokyo).

This ranking of important and big ports reflect the economic change in balance of power, due to the fact that China and South-East-Asia (including the TIGER-states) get more influence on the market, and the “old powers” (USA-Europe-Japan) lose some power.

The recent economic crisis had great influence on the shipping industry. Many container ships were underutilized so that freight rates broke down (just 60% from Europe to Asia). They had to change drivability, among others they reduced their speed and changed routes to avoid canal costs (for example Suez-Canal). Some container ships stopped temporarily, others permanently (8.8% of container ships).

This crisis pushed other countries that took profit from others’ loss. Above all, the BRIC-nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China) became and will become more important.

To get a more inside view into a port (and its economy), here is an impression of Hamburg’s port (Germany):

The port of Hamburg is known as “Deutschlands Tor zur Welt” (engl.: Germany’s gateway to the world) due to its economic importance especially referring to exports. (cf. Grobecker 2004, p. 244)

Port in Hamburg

The port of Hamburg, a sea port, is about 100 km away from the estuary of North Sea; to be exact it is situated at the lower Elbe. The port of Hamburg is a seaport because ships with a draft of 15 m can access to the port due to dredging of fairway from time to time. (cf. Grobecker 2004, p.12)

The port of Hamburg is not just a seaport, but also a universal port meaning it is not specialized on certain goods, but containers dominate the port. (cf. Pasdzior 2008, p.75) A further classification of this port is that it is an open tidal port, e.g. ships have access to the port basins at any time no matter what tide. Just enormously big ships need to wait for flood to roll in. (cf. Pasdzior 2008, p.69)

View at the port in Hamburg

Shipbuilding was an essential economic sector at the port. Hamburg was one of the most important locations for shipbuilding until the 1950s due to cheaper production in Asia. (cf. Pasdzior 2008, p. 47) The only existing shipyard is Blohm+Voss which was founded in 1877; starting by building passenger ships, but later also submarines and battleships (for example “Bismarck”). (cf. Pasdzior 2008, p. 49) Nowadays, Blohm+Voss’ work is limited to repair works and technical highly complicated special ships. (cf. Pasdzior 2008, p. 68) A growing factor is cruise. There is a new cruise terminal in Hamburg. In 2007, 130,000 cruise tourists arrived there (74 ships). (cf. Pasdzior 2008, p. 93)

In 1984, Hamburg had its first “round-the-world-service” when the HHLA (Hamburger Hafen Logistik AG; a logistic enterprise specialized in container management) cleared a ship of the Evergreen Marine Corporation (EMC) that was about to ship around the world with stopping at the most important container ports. Hamburg acted as its coordinator. The EMC started to have this route as a regular route with Hamburg playing big role as the first port of loading and discharge in North Europe. Due to HHLA’s modern container unit handling, Hamburg became very important, also because of its good location. (cf. Grobecker 2004, p.154)

Shipping and especially containers have been essential for globalization to appear in the first place, and Hamburg made profit out of it. Early contacts with Asia, especially to China were an important step due to Asia’s growing economy. Hamburger is closed-partnered with Hong Kong and in particular with Shanghai (also town twinning). (cf. Pasdzior 2008, p.86)

In 2001, there have been 127 new enterprises in Hamburg (33 from Asia). 60% (2001) of external trade between China and Germany are transacted over Hamburg. (cf. Grobecker 2004, p. 217)

Hamburg Port - Connection with China

The port of Hamburg has two big logistic enterprises specialized in container management: HHLA and Eurogate.

HHLA has three container terminals: “Buchardkai” as Hamburg biggest terminal, “Altenwerder” as one of the world’s latest terminals and “Tollerot”.

Eurogate is a company which is also situated in other European locations. It is the biggest terminal operator in Europe. (cf. Martin et al. 2007, p.12)

A very important is also the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) which was founded in 2005. Its tasks involve managing the infrastructure, the security of ship traffic, port railway tracks, real estate and the economic conditions at the port. (cf.