Sector development

The strength and speed of throughput growth as a result of the economic recovery, combined with ongoing shipping delays, led to heavy congestion at ports in 2021. operators had to contend with severely delayed, unscheduled ship calls, increasing container dwell times, bottlenecks in onshore transport chains and staff shortages due to coronavirus outbreaks. Supply chain disruptions and bottlenecks, particularly in outer ports, will continue to restrict the pace of throughput growth in 2022. The market research institute Drewry has therefore downgraded its forecast for global container throughput compared to September and now anticipates growth of 4.6 % for 2022 (previously: 8.2 %).

For China, the most important shipping region for the Port of Hamburg, Drewry expects an increase in container throughput of 4.8 % in 2022. The prospects for European ports indicate accelerated growth in 2022. Experts estimate that the shipping region Europe will grow by 6.0 % in the current financial year. The upturn is reflected in almost all European shipping regions; only the North-West European ports are likely to record slower throughput growth compared to 2021.

Expected container throughput by shipping region

Growth expectation in %




Trend vs. 2021





Asia as a whole








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 2021

Considering the capacities available at container terminals in the and the Baltic Sea, competition between ports is likely to remain fierce. Smaller ports like Wilhelmshaven, Zeebrugge and Dunkirk are benefiting from the bottlenecks at leading North Range ports caused by supply chain disruptions.

The situation on the container shipping market also remains tense. In the past, this situation was attributable to high order volumes from shipping companies and overcapacity built up over time in the container ship fleet. However, as a result of the significant economic imbalances caused by the pandemic, there are considerable capacity bottlenecks in the container shipping industry. The strong demand for transport has put ships and containers in short supply, prompting freight rates to spike, particularly on the spot market. Simultaneously, the punctuality of liner shipping companies has decreased noticeably.

The market research institute AXS Alphaliner expects that the fleet’s total carrying capacity will rise to 26.0 million in the forecast period. 185 ships with a carrying capacity of around 1.1 million TEU are scheduled for delivery in 2022. Of these, ten ships will be in the 18,000–24,000 TEU category.

In view of the unbroken trend towards larger ships and the resulting rise in container volumes per ship call, the pressure on terminals and transport systems will continue. These challenges are currently growing as a result of significantly disrupted container liner shipping around the world. Due to highly irregular ship calls, changes in rotations and port omissions, average ship call volumes are rising, resulting in more handling peaks and persistent pressure on ports and the entire logistics chain.

Expected freight traffic in Germany by modes of transport

Growth expactation in %




Trend vs. 2021

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; November 2021

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 November 2021 anticipates that the recovery of the entire German freight market will continue in 2022. The experts anticipate strong year-on-year growth in transport volumes across all modes of freight traffic. However, in terms of traffic performance – transport volume multiplied by distance travelled – the expected weakening of foreign trade is likely to be reflected in lower growth rates. With regard to road freight, transport volumes are expected to increase by 3.0 % and traffic performance by 3.5 % in 2022. With regard to rail freight, the exceptionally strong rise in dry bulk transportation will not be repeated in 2022. Growth in the volume of goods transported by rail will fall to 4.2 %, while traffic performance will also increase more slowly by 4.8 % in 2022. By contrast, traffic is expected to more or less maintain its momentum in the current year. Volumes will be up by 5.3 % and performance by 5.7 %.


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.

Intermodal/Intermodal systems

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