Market position

With its listed core business Port Logistics, HHLA competes with other companies on the European market for sea freight services. This market offers long-term growth prospects, as a number of key Central European countries strengthened their competitiveness after the debt crisis, thereby paving the way for a further increase in foreign trade and consumer spending. Eastern Europe also offers growth potential and stable forecasts. Whether these positive trends materialise depends in part on the resolution of regional conflicts and the development of raw material and energy prices.

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic had an adverse impact on the economy – and in particular on manufacturing and trade – albeit to a lesser extent than initially anticipated. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates the year-on-year decline in the economy and global trade in 2020 at 3.5 % and 9.6 %, respectively. Economic environment

In particular, the prospect of vaccinations and, consequently, an end to global lockdown measures in the foreseeable future are having a positive effect on forecasts for the development of the global economy and global trade. According to IMF estimates, global growth will be positive in 2021 following downward trends in 2020. Business forecast

Container throughput at the North Range ports

Handling volumes and market shares in 2020

Container throughput at the North Range ports (map)

Source: Port Authorities / market shares according to own calculation

The market for port services on the Northern European coast (the ) of relevance for HHLA is characterised by its high concentration of ports. Competition is particularly strong between the four major North Range ports of Hamburg, HHLA’s main hub, Bremerhaven, Rotterdam and Antwerp. Other handling sites – such as Wilhelmshaven and Zeebrugge – are con­sider­ably smaller in terms of their capacity and/or current freight volume. The Baltic Sea ports are served by high traffic operating via central distribution points in the North Range. Ports such as Gdansk and Gothenburg, however, are providing more intense competition due to direct calls by ocean-going vessels. Gdansk is exhibiting particularly strong growth and is therefore developing into a serious competitor in this network system. Adriatic ports, such as Koper and Trieste, and the Polish ports have also improved their infrastructure and are competing with the Port of Hamburg for freight in the .

As well as the geographical position and hinterland links of a port, its accessibility from the sea affects the competitive position of operators. Local freight volume in the direct catchment area of each port location plays an important role. Other key competitive factors that influence the market position include the reliability and speed of ship handling, as well as the scope and quality of services. Also of increasing importance is the performance of pre- and onward-carriage rail systems serving the hinterland (e.g. frequency, punctuality, pricing) and therefore the range of integrated transport solutions.

After APM Terminals (APMT) had signed a letter of intent in late 2019 regarding the sale of APM Terminals Rotterdam on Maasvlakte 1 to Hutchison Ports, the Dutch anti-trust authority approved the takeover by Hutchison Ports Netherlands, the parent company of ECT, in October 2020. Competition remains extremely fierce in Northern Europe and the ports are increasingly dependent on changing shipping company constellations. The resulting shift towards more geographically flexible feeder traffic is having an impact on handling volumes. By contrast, the market position for handling volumes that are tied to the natural catchment area onshore is largely stable. Here, it is vital to take the shortest route for the disproportionately more expensive land-bound transportation.

Container throughput at the largest North Range ports

in million TEU

Container throughput at the largest North Range ports (line chart)

1 incl. HHLA / Source: Port Authorities

Container throughput by shipping region

in the Port of Hamburg, 2020

Container throughput by shipping region (pie chart)

Source: Hamburg Hafen Marketing e.V.

The Container segment benefits from the Port of Hamburg’s position as the most easterly North Sea port, which makes it the ideal hub for the entire Baltic region and for traffic to and from Central and Eastern Europe. Furthermore, the long-standing trading relationships between the Port of Hamburg and the Asian markets are advancing Hamburg’s role as an important European container hub.

With a container throughput of 8.5 million , Hamburg ranked 18th among the wolrd's ports in 2020 and is thus still the third largest European container port after Rotterdam and Antwerp.  In Hamburg, with a handling volume of 6.8 million TEU in 2020, HHLA remained the largest container handling company and was able to increase the market share of HHLA container in handling in the Port of Hamburg to 80% (previous year: 75%).  The most important shipping areas were the Far East, North America, Scandinavia and the Baltic region.

In the Intermodal segment, HHLA primarily utilises the advantages of the Port of Hamburg’s rail infrastructure – Europe’s most important rail traffic hub handling 2.6 million TEU a year. HHLA’s network also comprises further ports along the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts as well as the northern Adriatic and, increasingly, continental traffic. The companies that transport containers by train compete with a variety of other rail operators and intermodal transport firms in Germany and abroad, but also with other carriers such as trucks and barges or feeder ships. As the rail infrastructure is for the most part publicly owned, various national authorities guard against discrimination in both access and usage fees. In addition to the density of the available network, key competitive factors include the frequency of departures, opportunities for freight pooling and storage in the hinterland, the geographical distance to destinations, punctuality and infrastructural capacity. The importance of these factors is growing as ports compete with one another.

HHLA operates proprietary inland terminals in Central and Eastern Europe along with its own container wagons and fleet (locomotives). All of these factors play a major role in the company’s service offering. This is necessary to enable it to run direct trains with frequent departures and to allow the efficient pooling of rail freight transported via the port, which is efficiently distributed by central handling facilities. HHLA occupies relevant market positions in the majority of the regions it serves. HHLA has a sound market position in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region in the delivery and collection of containers by truck.

Intermodal network of HHLA

Selected connections

Intermodal network of HHLA (map)

The Logistics segment serves various market sectors, some of them heavily specialised. With its multi-function terminal, HHLA is the leading provider of specialist handling services in Hamburg. Via Hansaport, HHLA has a stake in Germany’s biggest seaport terminal for handling iron ore and coal. HHLA also provides fruit handling services for Northern Europe with its Frucht- und Kühl-Zentrum. In the field of consultancy, work is conducted on pioneering development projects around the world. The portfolio is rounded off by new business activities, such as additive manufacturing and airborne logistics services.

With a population of approximately 1.8 million and its significance as an economic centre, Hamburg is one of the largest property markets in Germany for the Real Estate segment. What makes the portfolio particularly attractive are its unique buildings and favourable locations in Hamburg’s Speicherstadt historical warehouse district and on the northern banks of the river Elbe/fish market area. The company has built up a wealth of development and implementation expertise dedicated to finding the right balance between market-based tenant demands and the careful handling of its landmarked buildings with world heritage status. The properties compete with German and international investors marketing high-quality properties in comparable locations.

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.

Feeder/Feeder ship

Vessels which carry smaller numbers of containers to ports. From Hamburg, feeders are primarily used to transport boxes to the Baltic region.


A port’s catchment area.


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


A port’s catchment area.

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.


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

Intermodal/Intermodal systems

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


The action of a locomotive pulling a train.