Draught-restricted ports suffering

Port calls Fully loaded megaships can’t call at Hamburg and Bremerhaven. Credit: ISL/ Hackett Associates
Industry Database

Draught restrictions at the ports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven has resulted in a shift of market shares away from them towards Rotterdam, Antwerp and Wilhelmshaven.

This shift has happened during the last two quarters said the Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics’ Sönke Maatsch, commenting in the Global Port Tracker North Europe report, published in January. She explained while some of the import cargo is removed from vessels before they call at Hamburg and Bremerhaven, as they are seldom the first port of call on intercontinental liner services, this offloading is not enough for the ports to accommodate megaships.

Ships do not arrive in fully loaded, “yet with the introduction of the latest 20,000+ TEU vessels, this is still too much. First, we saw transhipment move from the German ports to Rotterdam and Antwerp so the Asia services could still call in Bremerhaven and/or Hamburg. Recently, we see an increasing number of services turning in Antwerp or Rotterdam,” said Dr Maatsch.

He noted that while it appears that Hamburg and Bremerhaven aren’t cut off from business yet, the tide-independent draught of 13.5m is far below the maximum ship draught of the latest vessels with 16m.

“While no alliance can afford not to call in the two major German ports, they can use transhipment or interlining strategies to avoid the need to call there with every line,” he said.

“The competitive disadvantage will be weaker, but it will not disappear completely.”

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