Annual Report 2023

Business partners and customers

In its relationships with business partners, HHLA strives for integrity, fairness, responsibility and sustainability. To minimise the risks that may occur at the start of and during business relationships, HHLA uses a Group-wide business partner screening system. The system facilitates the recurring risk-based analysis and assessment of business relationships and possible measures to reduce risks. Risk and opportunity management

Customer structure

Capacity breakdown by shipping line alliance

Far East–Europe as of 31.12.2023

Capacity breakdown by shipping line alliances (pie chart)
Source: Alphaliner Monthly Monitor, January 2024

The customer base in the Container segment consists mainly of shipping companies, rail companies and freight forwarders. Globally operating container shipping companies account for the largest share of revenue. In ship handling, HHLA’s container terminals work together with shipping companies on a generally neutral basis (multi-user principle) and offer a wide range of high-quality services. In the reporting year, HHLA’s customer base included all of the world’s top ten container shipping companies.

Investments in container terminals by shipping companies are widespread in the industry and standard practice. They aim to tie cargo volumes to the port over the long term, to optimise terminal capacity and to strengthen supply chains.

Shipping companies hold non-controlling interests in three HHLA terminals. The shipping company Hapag-Lloyd holds a non-controlling interest of 25.1 % in HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA). On 19 June 2023, HHLA and COSCO SHIPPING Ports Limited (CSP) signed the contracts for a minority interest of 24.9 % in HHLA Container Terminal Tollerort (CTT), following the conclusion of the investment appraisal process. And the Grimaldi Group holds a 49 % stake in the multi-function terminal Unikai, which is attributed to the Logistics segment.

HHLA’s majority shareholder, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (FHH), and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) came to an understanding in September 2023 as part of an investor agreement about a strategic investment in HHLA. According to this agreement, the City of Hamburg intends to maintain a share of 50.1 % while MSC holds a share of up to 49.9 %. As part of a preliminary agreement, a business combination agreement will safeguard the neutrality of the business model and the equal treatment of the HHLA Group’s customers. Significant events

In the Container segment, the three major shipping line alliances OCEAN Alliance, 2M and THE Alliance dominated the market as customers during the reporting year. The shipping companies of the 2M Alliance, A.P. Moller-Maersk (APM-Maersk) and MSC announced in January 2023 that they would not be extending their agreement and that the partnership would end in 2025. The OCEAN Alliance contract runs until 2027, while the contractual partnership of THE Alliance runs until 2030. In January 2024, the two shipping companies Hapag-Lloyd and APM-Maersk announced that they would be working together as the “Gemini Cooperation” as of February 2025. Hapag-Lloyd will therefore be leaving THE Alliance ahead of schedule in early 2025.

Shipping companies have a long history of joining forces to create alliances. HHLA is therefore also well equipped to handle this new development. The extent to which the latest industry developments will affect HHLA remains to be seen.

The shipping company APM-Maersk acquired the Hamburg-Süd shipping company in 2017 and announced in June 2023 that the Hamburg-Süd brand was to be retired. This does not affect the HHLA container terminals as all business activities already went through APM-Maersk at this time. There have been no further mergers or acquisitions among the top ten container shipping companies in the past few years.

Top 10 shipping companies by transport capacity



Shipping company




thousand TEU



















OCEAN Alliance





COSCO Group (incl. OOCL)


OCEAN Alliance







THE Alliance







THE Alliance





Evergreen Line


OCEAN Alliance





HMM (Hyundai Merchant Marine)


THE Alliance





Yang Ming


THE Alliance









Source: Alphaliner Monthly Monitor, January 2024

During the reporting year, new ship orders were down on the previous year, both in terms of the number of ships and the capacities ordered. Orders are distributed across all ship classes. Ships with a capacity of over 18,000 TEU – primarily used on the Far East–northern Europe routes so critical to Hamburg – currently account for 16 % of all container ship orders. Twelve new ships are expected in 2024 with a further eleven ships of this size on the shipyards’ books for 2025.

Shipping companies and forwarders are also the main customers of the Intermodal segment. As one of the leading providers of intermodal services, HHLA’s rail subsidiary METRANS assumes a neutral role in the intermodal market, which is characterised by an established number of public and private providers.

The services provided in the Logistics segment are aimed at various customer groups, ranging from steel companies and power plants (in the field of bulk cargo handling) to international operators of ports and other logistics centres (in the field of port consulting).

The Real Estate segment lets its office space and commercial premises to German and international clients from a variety of sectors: from logistics and trading companies to media, consulting and advertising agencies, fashion labels, hotels and restaurants, and companies in the creative sector.

Sales activities

As far as possible, all of HHLA’s sales activities follow the strategic approach of vertical integration, i.e. offering comprehensive transport and logistics services from a single source. This strategic approach is pursued by means of intensive, cross-segment dialogue between the sales organisations, joint customer visits and by attending events in the hinterland of seaports.

Revenue distribution by customer

at the Hamburg container terminals 2023

Revenue distribution by customer (pie chart)

Sales activities in the Container segment are organised by means of key account management. The revenue share attributable to HHLA’s five most important customers at its Hamburg container terminals changed in the 2023 financial year to 75.2 % (previous year: 75.1 %). The revenue share attributable to the ten most important customers at the Hamburg terminals decreased slightly to 95.7 % (previous year: 96.1 %). HHLA has maintained commercial relationships with the majority of its most important customers for well over two decades. HHLA concludes multi-year framework contracts with its shipping customers that set out both the scope and the remuneration of services. As the usage volume for these services is not fixed, there is no order backlog in the traditional sense for the specific services provided by HHLA.

In the Intermodal and Logistics segments, sales activities are generally managed locally by the individual companies. As a rule, no framework contracts are concluded regarding transport services; instead, the current transport or service requirements are provided to order.

The Real Estate segment’s sales team offers potential clients and tenants a wide range of services for properties in its two main districts – Hamburg’s Speicherstadt historical warehouse district and the northern banks of the river Elbe/fish market area – as well as for logistics properties in the Port of Hamburg.

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.
Payments for investments in property, plant and equipment, investment property and intangible assets.
Revenue from sales or lettings and from services rendered, less sales deductions and VAT.
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.

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