Annual Report 2022


Changing expectations on the part of customers, employees and other stakeholder groups mean that also companies with established business models must continually scrutinise, develop and enhance their activities. In order to operate successfully over the long term in the dynamic and often highly volatile logistics sector, HHLA aims to meet the various needs of its customers and employees as effectively as possible through a process of continuous improvement and development of its structures and processes.

In doing so, HHLA only engages to a very limited extent in research and development in the narrower sense of the term. However, it consistently strives to develop its own innovative logistics solutions while quickly adopting product innovations and application-oriented technologies that have been successfully proven on the market. The focus is on the constant monitoring of markets and technologies in order to identify promising developments at an early stage. Due to close collaboration with technical universities, institutes, industry partners and government authorities, as well as start-ups, (joint) projects can be planned, managed and developed by working groups.

HHLA’s strategic objective in doing so is to make its core business “fit for the world of tomorrow” and to tap new growth areas along the logistics chain. It focuses in particular on opportunities arising through the automation and digitalisation of logistics processes.

Fit for the world of tomorrow

As part of its corporate strategy, HHLA is committed to a transformation process aimed at strengthening the company’s future viability and creative power over the long term. In order to implement this, HHLA launched a comprehensive efficiency programme at the container terminals in Hamburg in 2021 that will last at least five years. This programme aims to make it easier over the medium term to establish volume leadership and to optimise the capacity utilisation of existing structures in the port of Hamburg while improving the company’s price position through cost synergies. Boosting efficiency and performance will strengthen HHLA's market and competitive position over the medium term and secure the future of this site and employment over the long term. Operational efficiency, one of the key customer requirements, forms the basis for customer satisfaction and loyalty. It therefore plays a major role in ensuring the lasting economic success of the company.

The focus is on the centralisation and digitalisation of planning, administration and management tasks, the extensive automation of the terminals, and the strictly KPI-based management of service processes that are optimised on an end-to-end basis.

Adjustment of the organisational structure

A new organisational structure aims to make the end-to-end, process-optimising management of handling operations in Hamburg more rigorous in the future. The far-reaching, cross-terminal standardisation of processes, terminals and systems while realigning management roles and raising employee qualifications will create the basis for a faster-learning and permanently developing organisation.

Cross-terminal staff deployment planning at the Hamburg container terminals will form the basis for enabling the increasing flexibility and planning security required for processing vessels that are continually growing in size. New shift models are to be made digitally operational by means of a modern workforce management system.

Automation of facilities

The automation of facilities and process steps not only lowers handling costs but also increases process reliability and occupational health and safety. Examples of this include automation projects such as the introduction of AGVs (automated guided vehicles) at Container Terminal Burchardkai (CTB) for the horizontal transportation of containers and automatic truck handling for more efficient truck processing.

By switching to the new yard crane system, we are not only able to make much more efficient use of space, but also to boost the productivity of the container terminal. Furthermore, electrified yard cranes are another investment in the sustainable future of HHLA as the use of electricity from renewable sources reduces carbon emissions. The project was funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Expansion of digitalisation for process optimisation

HHLA’s digitalisation measures aim to pool process-relevant information and control variables and make them available on shared digital platforms in order to increase process speed and performance, thus making an important contribution towards boosting competitiveness. Furthermore, the digitalisation initiatives serve to create and simplify interfaces with the company’s customers and facilitate the optimisation of handling quality.

Digitalisation measures are identified and implemented using participatory methods and aligned with the Group’s value creation objectives. The core areas for digitalisation opportunities are regularly analysed, with the potential added value quantified. This gives rise to the priority with which measures are to be implemented.

Tapping new growth fields

The HHLA Next innovation unit established in 2021 unites the expertise of the Group with the agility of a start-up in order to promote innovative digital concepts while actively shaping the transportation methods of the future. Its activities focus on generating new growth fields, particularly in the areas of digital end-to-end logistics processes, autonomous solutions, sustainable logistics, automated handling and intelligent and sustainable storage solutions.

The business models and products are developed by HHLA itself, in cooperation with partners and through investments in companies in the maritime logistics environment. The innovative products and business models already developed and established as independent companies in this way include HHLA Sky and modility.


HHLA Sky has developed a scalable, end-to-end drone system that allows the safe operation of drones beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS). These industrial drones are extremely robust, very light and equipped with safety technology. Customers can integrate the system into their own business processes independently, or use it as a service operated by HHLA Sky. HHLA Sky has also developed software and related information systems. The HHLA Sky software can be purchased for use on a licensed basis. Among other things, the control centre is used operationally for drone flights to inspect container gantry cranes at HHLA terminals.

HHLA Sky also contributed its expertise to the UDVeo (urban drone traffic efficiently organised) research project in 2022. The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) from 2020 to 2022, under the leadership of the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg. The aim of the project was to develop the basis for a drone management system for efficient and safe transport.


modility is an online-based booking and placement portal for intermodal transport in Europe with a current focus on road and rail. The portal enables operators to market their transport capacities in a virtual marketplace for intermodal transport and offers freight forwarders a simple, fast search process and direct transport bookings. In this way, modility aims to become the central access point for intermodal transport and make it easier for companies to switch to more climate-friendly intermodal transport.

Since November 2022, the technical development has been promoted by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMDV) as part of its “Future of rail freight transport” programme. The funds are intended to promote the development and integration of new functions and to open up new user groups on both the supply and demand sides.

Other development projects and funding projects

HHLA is also involved in various funding projects involving the development of innovative technologies and logistics solutions. In addition to more efficient logistics chains and the optimised networking of production and logistics, the innovations and new port technologies aim to provide carbon-neutral logistics solutions.

Project overview: Container segment



Project goal






Project duration

ABC aspect


Development of a self-learning, automatic image recognition system based on an AI approach for the inspection of container container gantry cranes


Technical University Brunswick




12/2019 – 09/2022



Container services optimised by artificial intelligence: Optimisation of the processes for damage identification and assessment in the empty container depot with the help of artificial intelligence and 3D digital container twins through the development of adaptive algorithms for image recognition processes


Fraunhofer-Centre for Maritime Logistics and Services




11/2019 – 07/2022



Flexibility management and control energy provision of Heavy-duty vehicles in the port: optimisation of the charging times of an electrically powered commercial vehicle fleet through better forecasting and consideration of waiting times




Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK)


bis 03/2022



Port company-specific risk analysis, conception of methods and rules for the detection and defence against cyber attacks on on IT systems and implementation of the results in a demonstrator


University of Hamburg (Department of Computer Science) & DAKOSY




03/2019 – 02/2022

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Initiative


Increase warehouse productivity based on AI-based prediction of container pick-up time and outbound mode of transport







Pin-Handling-mR (mobile robotics)


Development of automated pin handling for container wagons using mobile robotics






10/2022 – 03/2025

PortSkill 4.0


Analysis and research of the competences and qualifications needed for port work in the future in order to develop innovative learning concepts and environments as well as new education and training offers






12/2021 – 11/2025


Funding programme for Innovative Port Technologies (IHATEC), funded by the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV).

Project overview: Intermodal segment



Project goal






Project duration

Automation dispatch


Automation of truck and train handling at the terminals







Automation Cover


Transshipment automation at the hinterland terminals as well as further Automation in the terminal, stowage and storage areas







Digital platforms


Development of digital platforms to increase the effectiveness of traffic and optimisation of terminal operations







Project overview: Logistics segment



Project goal






Project duration

Rymax-One Quantum Optimizer


Provision of use cases from the field of logistics in order to integrate high-performance computing environments in the future and make them available to interested users via cloud access to an HPC quantum computer hybrid operation.


University of Hamburg & Fraunhofer ITWM




12/2021 – 11/2026

UniPort 4.0


Digitisation in the area of universal ports for handling various general and bulk cargoes


Brunsbüttel Ports GmbH




04/2019 – 01/2022

Project overview: Holding & Real Estate



Project goal






Project duration

Climate neutrality in listed buildings


Research project on the generation, storage and use of energy required for real estate operation


University of Stuttgart, HafenCity University Hamburg (BIMLab), University of Aachen


Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK)


10/2021 –12/2024

Sub-projects "Mukran" on Rügen and "Helgoland


Development of an approach for the production, transport and use of hydrogen; testing the possibilities for transporting hydrogen in high-pressure containers as well as via the carrier medium LOHC (Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers).


240 partners from science and industry


Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)



Automated guided vehicle (AGV)
A fully automatic, driverless transport vehicle which carries containers back and forth between the container gantry cranes on the quayside and the block storage yard at the HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder.
Container gantry crane
A crane system used to load and discharge container ships. As ships are becoming larger and larger, the latest container gantry cranes have much higher, longer jibs to match.
Intermodal/Intermodal systems
Transportation via several modes of transport (water, rail, road) combining the specific advantages of the respective carriers.
Payments for investments in property, plant and equipment, investment property and intangible assets.
In maritime logistics, a terminal is a facility where freight transported by various modes of transport is handled.
Value added
Production value – intermediate inputs (cost of materials, depreciation and amortisation, and other operating expenses); the value added generated is shared between the HHLA Group’s stakeholders, such as employees, shareholders, lenders and the local community.

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