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Hapag-Lloyd puts its "home" port under pressure

Hamburg is too expensive, Hapag-Lloyd’s CEO Rolf Habben Jansen stated at a public hearing of the city state’s Parliament

Hapag-Lloyd’s CEO Rolf Habben Jansen (left) complained to the Bürgerschaft that handling costs at Hamburg’s container terminals are "too high" compared with other North European ports and warned that volumes could start to decline next year.

He stated that HHLA’s Container Terminal Burchardkai (CTB) is particularly expensive, relaying the views of Hapag-Lloyd’s Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean partners in THE Alliance (ONE, Yang Ming and HMM).

The comments were made at a meeting of the Committee responsible for publicly-owned companies. The city state holds a 68% stake in HHLA and also owns around 14% of Hapag-Lloyd.

Habben Jansen warned that THE Alliance could move cargoes to other ports if HHLA does not lower its indicative rates for 2020. “The pressure of the alliance partners is very real and should not be underestimated," he said. "Steps have been taken to move volumes away from Hamburg." The context for his remarks is that THE Alliance carriers transferred four North Atlantic services from Bremerhaven to Hamburg this year, so it has more bargaining power.

Contract negotiations between Hapag-Lloyd, its alliance partners and HHLA have not yet commenced, but Habben Jansen’s comments have to be taken on board, said the state’s Senator for Economic Affairs, Michael Westhagemann.

Christian Koopmann, chairman of the German Shipbrokers and Shipping Agents Association (VHSS), said that Hamburg should become "the trailblazer in cost efficiency in the North European ports range. The Port of Hamburg is expensive, but is also regarded as very efficient and very reliable. One of the problems, he said, is the cost of pilotage, but Hamburg has a long fairway approach from the North Sea via the river Elbe.

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