Sector development

Following a moderate increase in container throughput in 2018, the market research institute Drewry expects the momentum to slow in 2019 with a decrease of 0.6 percentage points to 4.1 %.

Growth will be driven in particular by the shipping regions of Asia (+ 4.9 %), particularly South Asia (+ 8.0 %), and Latin America (+ 4.4 %). Drewry expects that container throughput growth in China – the Port of Hamburg’s most important shipping region – will be stronger in 2019 than in the comparatively weak previous year, but still clearly below 5 %. The outlook for European shipping regions is also much less positive. Experts estimate that growth in the European shipping region in 2019 will be only half as strong as in the previous year. Drewry forecasts that only the North-West European ports will recover slightly compared with 2018. For all other shipping regions, estimates are up to 8.3 percentage points below the prior-year figures.

Expected container throughput by shipping region

Growth expectation in %




Trend vs. 2018

Source: Drewry Maritime Research, December 2018













Europe as a whole




North-West Europe




Scandinavia and the Baltic region




Western Mediterranean




Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea




Considering the capacities available at container in the and the Baltic Sea, competition between ports is likely to remain fierce in 2019. However, as Drewry forecasts increased demand for the North European ports in 2019, the situation is expected to ease slightly. Nevertheless, the bargaining power of shipping companies in negotiations with the port operators has increased significantly as a result of mergers and acquisitions, as well as the formation of new alliances.

The situation on the container shipping market also looks set to ease slightly. Drewry expects the market conditions for shipping companies to brighten significantly in 2019, with growth in average freight rates of 6.5 % for the forecasting period. However, the development of freight rates is strongly dependent on the high volatility of crude oil prices, which makes it difficult to forecast bunker costs. According to estimates of the market research institute AXS Alphaliner, the growth in total capacity of the container ship fleet will continue its downward trend in 2019 as a result of declining orders from shipping companies and delayed deliveries. At 3.5 %, growth in total capacity of the container ship fleet is likely to be slower again than that of global demand in the forecasting period. 185 ships with a carrying capacity of around 1.2 million are expected to be delivered in 2019. Of these, 21 ships will belong to the +18,000-TEU class.

In view of the steady increase in ship sizes and the resulting rise in container volumes per ship call, the pressure on terminals and transport systems will continue to grow. The most recent medium-term forecast for cargo and passenger transport in Germany issued by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) in September 2018 anticipates robust growth for the German freight market in 2019.

Expected freight traffic in Germany by modes of transport

Growth expactation in %




Trend vs. 2018

Source: Floating medium-term forecast for freight and passenger transport on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure; September 2018

Transport volumes




Road traffic




Railway traffic




Multi-modal traffic




Traffic performance




Road traffic




Railway traffic




Multi-modal traffic




For all modes of freight traffic, experts expect a slight year-on-year increase in both transport volumes and traffic performance (transport volume multiplied by the distance travelled) of 0.3 percentage points. With regard to road freight, the increase in tolls is likely to result in similar growth rates to the previous year for transport volumes and traffic performance in 2019. Rail freight is expected to benefit from the increase in road tolls. As a result, 2.6 % more goods could be transported by rail during the forecasting period, more than doubling the growth in traffic performance from 1.6 % in the previous year to 3.4 %. Multi-modal traffic looks set to develop even more dynamically, with volume and performance likely to increase by 5.7 % and 5.2 %, respectively.


In maritime logistics, a terminal is a facility where freight transported by various modes of transport is handled.

North Range

The North European coast. In the broadest geographic sense, this is where all the international ports in Northern Europe from Le Havre to Hamburg can be found. The four largest ports are Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Rotterdam and Antwerp.

TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit)

A TEU is a 20-foot standard container, used as a unit for measuring container volumes. A 20-foot standard container is 6.06 metres long, 2.44 metres wide and 2.59 metres high.


A port’s catchment area.