Despite a slowing growth rate to single digit percentages container traffic remains important to the Port of Hamburg, leading Walter Schulze-Freyburg, CEO Port of Hamburg, to point out the port's perception it is part of the supply chain.
After seven years of double digit growth, Schultze-Freyburg quipped that he hoped the slowing to single digit percentages was not the beginning of Jospeh's Biblical prophecy to the Egyptians of seven strong years followed by seven lean years. He stressed the Port's focus on the end customer, saying the port is part of the supply chain, along with its transportation partners.
Marcel Sames of Polzug describes how the evolution of the German port following the fall of the Iron Curtain has led it back to its traditional markets in the East. With Poland as a member of the European Union, the customs border that had existed between Germany and Poland is no longer a factor, allowing goods to flow more easily into and out of that market and to reach further east into Russia, the Ukraine and other regions which are developing rapidly. In fact, he notes, Russia is already a leader in automotive sales, surpassing Germany.
At the same time, more production is moving into Eastern European and former Soviet countries. He notes a connection with Korea which has established production in those areas.
Though the current economic situation leads to stagnant growth projections, rail transport is strong and gaining market share. What is needed, says Sames, is education—teaching shipping lines and shippers about the prospects for rail to and from Hamburg and highlighting the fact environmental issues are important in Europe and consumers may even be willing to pay more for sustainable options.
In the end, rail won't be able to handle all of the freight from the ports, but it will grow with truck and feeder services.