Port of Hamburg Rail Network Setting European Benchmark
In their “Best route market study for containerised imports to South Germany”, published at the beginning of March, the Drewry Group’s supply-chain consultants investigated via which ports containers imported from Shanghai can be transported fastest and cheapest to southern Germany, i.e. Munich, Freiburg, Stuttgart, Ulm and Nuremberg. In almost all markets under consideration, Hamburg comes out better than Rotterdam, Antwerp and the southern ports in the Mediterranean. Contributing to this are numerous direct services, a high departure frequency for container block trains and the fast transit times to/from the Hamburg quay wall.
Across the North Range a total of 16 Far East liner services are currently on offer from the major container shipping lines. The two leading ports in these statistics are Rotterdam and Hamburg, being called at by 15 and 13 of these 16 liner services respectively. Antwerp, however, with a total of six is served by less than half of all possible liner services.
Calculating the speed of the route for the transit time at sea is an important factor in this study. Hamburg and Rotterdam achieve an average of 33 days with a best time of 29 days. The Port of Antwerp that is able to include the calculation for its extremely fast MSC 25-day liner service, on average achieves 36 days for its six services together. Since the study compares fastest times, Antwerp is repeatedly shown to be the fastest option in the port comparison. However, this is only true at certain times. In the overall comparison, i.e. when considering the average transit times, Antwerp falls behind Hamburg and Rotterdam.
Among the southern ports, Koper equally has a very positive 25-day liner service. Because of their geographical location, throughout the southern ports, the average transit time at sea is logically lower than for the North Range. However, the number of liner services calling at these ports lies between three and five with all ports, except Trieste, having a size restriction for containerships with a capacity of over 13,000 TEU.
In almost all target regions under consideration, the Port of Hamburg is best positioned: For transport with Freiburg, Nuremberg and Stuttgart, the southern ports have so far played no role. The three North Range ports, i.e. Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg are the only options with competitive conditions. In Freiburg, the Port of Hamburg can show its full colours, with regional shippers profiting from cheaper rates and faster, or same, transit times in comparison with Rotterdam and Antwerp on the trade route to and from Shanghai. For the Stuttgart and Nuremberg regions, the study determines that faster transit times are coupled with higher transport costs, with Antwerp offering the faster, but equally more expensive service. This, however, only applies to the ultra-fast MSC service, with its 25-day sea transit. When using any other liner service, this time-saving is non-existent in comparison to Hamburg and Rotterdam.
In the largest of the regions considered, Greater Munich, the Port of Koper can indeed be the fastest option for the shipper, but this is not without preconditions: It is only the Alliance 2M liner service, calling once a week, that creates the time advantage when twinned with the appropriate rail connection, but weighing in with extra costs of 100 USD in comparison to the routing via the Port of Hamburg for urgent goods. For non-urgent cargo, Hamburg is best positioned. Only Hamburg has numerous daily rail services, arriving directly overnight, providing the shippers with additional flexibility.
In all of the examples quoted, one of the Port of Hamburg’s great strengths comes into play: The high concentration of container train departures with the Hamburg Terminals increase flexibility, buffering the transport chain. Ulm is a good example for this: This market is only served by Hamburg and the southern Port of Trieste that only has one weekly container train service to Ulm. If this train to/from Trieste is missed, then it is either trucking or a week’s wait, cancelling out the time-saving from the shorter sea transit. Compare this to the daily scheduled train service to/from Hamburg, offering a reliable, more cost effective service to Shanghai.
Many other terminals in southern Germany, not considered in the study, demonstrate Hamburg’s overall strength across the board: Augsburg, Regensburg, Wiesau, Hof, Schweinfurt, Ingolstadt and Mannheim are just some examples for cities and towns that are just as quickly and flexibly linked to the Port of Hamburg. These target regions, partly, still have no connections to other North Range or southern ports.
According to Drewry’s experts, Hamburg is traditionally the strongest port for the southern German hinterland and will not lose this position in the foreseeable future. In 2015, more than one million TEU were handled in container transport via the Port of Hamburg for Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, even going against the general trend with a light plus in comparison with the previous year. The significant transport volume and competition between the many private and public rail operators is reflected in better prices for the operators when booking track space on DB Netz – German rail’s north-south axis. Because of its excellent network of hinterland connections by rail, the Port of Hamburg is Europe’s Number One rail port. Even under increasing competitive pressure, the Port of Hamburg will continue successfully as a pioneer for environmentally-friendly, reliable transport into the hinterland.