Port of Hamburg in 2023: Container throughput drops, bulk cargo remains stable


Compared to its northern European competitors, the decline in containerized cargo in Hamburg was less pronounced.

The Port of Hamburg maintains its position in challenging conditions
Port of Hamburg

Geopolitical and economic challenges weighed on throughput in all North Range ports in 2023. The declining development of the German economy and the subdued consumer sentiment also affected the business of the Port of Hamburg, Germany’s largest all-purpose port.

In 2023, container throughput declined in comparison to the previous year, although a slight recovery occurred in the second half of the year.

Bulk cargo throughput, however, remained largely stable, ensuring a consistent supply for Germany’s economy. There was a positive development in trade with several American and Southeast Asian countries.

HHLA recorded a drop in revenue in the 2023 financial year

Compared to its northern European competitors, the decline in containerized cargo in Hamburg was less pronounced, allowing the Port of Hamburg to maintain its market share.

Strained economic situation affects cargo throughput

In 2023, the terminals in the Port of Hamburg handled a total of 114.3 million tonnes of goods. Seaborne cargo throughput is thus 4.7 percent below the level of the previous year. Container throughput amounted to 7.7 million TEU, decreasing by 6.9 percent.

In the first half of 2023, the decline in container throughput amounted to as much as 11.7 percent compared to the same period in the previous year.

“When we look at the development of our throughput figures, we are on the same level as our Northern European competitors and are holding our own well compared to other ports. The decline is primarily due to the difficult geopolitical and economic situation that we all are facing,” explains Axel Mattern, CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing.

Stable bulk cargo throughput ensures security of supply

Bulk cargo throughput, which is important for the supply of the German economy and industry, remained stable in 2023 at 36.2 million tonnes (-0.2 percent compared to the previous year).

With an increase of 8.4 percent to 6.6 million tonnes, the agribulk business in particular recorded strong growth. In the area of liquid cargo, companies increased throughput to 10.6 million tonnes.

This equates to a gain of 6.6 percent compared to the previous year. Conversely, the throughput of grabbable cargo fell by 6.2 percent to 19 million tonnes. This was due to reduced power generation from coal as well as an inspection at a steelworks connected to the Port of Hamburg.

Hamburg welcomes more large container ships

More container vessels in the “Megamax” class of 18,000 TEU and above called at the Port of Hamburg, continuing the trend towards more large container ships. At 272 vessels, the figure rose by 14.8 percent in 2023.

“We are pleased that the number of large container ships calling at Hamburg has increased in the past year. The fact that so many of the world’s largest container ships call at the Port of Hamburg demonstrates the port’s capability and reliability,” notes Friedrich Stuhrmann, CCO at the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA).

“At the same time, it underlines the need to keep optimizing the infrastructure for these vessels and to ensure the effective maintenance of the Elbe federal waterway.”

The number of calls by large container ships also rose overall. In 2023, 511 calls by ultra-large container ships of 10,000 TEU or more were recorded – an increase of 5.1 percent compared to the previous year.

Moreover, the number of very large container ships (8,000 to 9,999 TEU) and “Panamax” container ships (4,000 to 5,999 TEU) at the Hamburg terminals increased considerably (23.1 percent or 36.7 percent respectively).

“This year, we will put the first shore-side power plants into operation at the major container terminals. This will enable a substantial reduction in emissions at the berth. In doing so, the Port of Hamburg will expand on its pioneering role in the field of sustainability and shore-side electricity,” says Stuhrmann.

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