Sector development

Following the pandemic-related decrease in global container throughput in 2020, the market research institute Drewry forecasts growth of 8.9 % for the coming year. However, this assumption is also subject to the successful control of the pandemic, rapid vaccination of the population and high catch-up effects over the course of the year, combined with high throughput rates.

Growth will be driven mainly by the shipping regions of South Asia (+ 13.7 %), North America (+ 11.7 %), Asia (+ 9.0 %), Latin America (+ 9.4 %) and Oceania (+ 10.9 %). For China, the most important shipping region for the Port of Hamburg, Drewry anticipates a strong increase in container throughput of 9.1 % in 2021. The prospects for the European shipping regions during the forecast period also indicate further significant growth of 7.7 %. According to Drewry, only the ports of the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea can expect a slightly slower recovery.

Expected container throughput by shipping region

Growth expectation in %




Trend vs. 2020













Europe as a whole




North-West Europe




Scandinavia and the Baltic region




Western Mediterranean




Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea




Source: Drewry Maritime Research, December 2020

In view of the existing container capacities and the pandemic-related increase in supply surpluses in the and the Baltic Sea, competition between ports is likely to remain fierce in 2021. Even the strong recovery in container throughput forecast by Drewry for the North European ports is unlikely to ease the situation in 2021. At the same time, as a result of mergers and acquisitions as well as the formation of new alliances, the bargaining power of the shipping lines vis-à-vis the port operators has increased noticeably in recent years.

With regard to capacity, the situation on the container shipping market is tense. While there was considerable overcapacity in the past, shipping space and containers are becoming scarce due to the strong economic recovery, especially in Asia. As a result, sea freight rates have increased significantly.

The market research institute AXS Alphaliner expects a slowdown in scrapping for 2021. The delivery of 159 ships with a slot capacity of around 1.1 million is expected in 2021. Of these, 13 ships will be in the 18,000-24,000 TEU category, i.e. cascading will continue, especially in the Asia shipping region. This will be accompanied by a further increase in the number of containers to be handled per ship call. For the terminals and onward-carriage rail systems, increasing efficiency is crucial for coping with peak situations caused by ship sizes.

Expected freight traffic by modes of transport

Growth expactation in %




Trend vs. 2020

Transport volumes




Road traffic




Railway traffic




Multi-modal traffic




Traffic performance




Road traffic




Railway traffic




Multi-modal traffic




Source: Floating medium-term forecast for freight and passenger transport on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, October 2020

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 October 2020 anticipates a significant recovery of the entire German freight market in 2021. For all modes of freight traffic, the experts expect a strong year-on-year increase in transport volumes. With regard to road freight, transport volumes are expected to increase by 4.1 % in 2021. Following a strong decline in 2020, significant growth momentum is expected for rail freight – although transport volumes are likely to remain below the pre-pandemic level. In the forecast period, 6.0 % more goods are expected to be transported by rail. transport is likely to grow somewhat more slowly at 4.8 %.


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.

Intermodal/Intermodal systems

Transportation via several modes of transport (water, rail, road) combining the specific advantages of the respective carriers.