Annual Report 2023


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.

Efficiency programme at the Hamburg container terminals

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 more rigorous in the future. The far-reaching, cross-terminal standardisation of processes, terminals and systems while realigning management roles and enhancing employee skills 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 automated guided vehicles (AGVs) 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 because 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 aims to unite  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, modility, heyport and passify. In addition, HHLA Next invested in FERNRIDE GmbH in the 2023 financial year.

HHLA Sky: end-to-end drone system

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. Moreover, HHLA Sky has developed software and related information systems that can be acquired for licensed use. Among other things, the control centre is used operationally for drone flights to inspect container gantry cranes at HHLA terminals.

HHLA Sky significantly expanded its sales activities in the public sector in 2023. Monitoring solutions with high demands on IT security are particularly important for this customer segment. Furthermore, HHLA Sky was able to contribute its expertise to other funding projects, such as Blu-Space, Genius and U-Turn. Important certification processes, such as ISO 9001, were successfully completed during the financial year. In 2023, HHLA Sky’s X4 drone received the German Design Award and the Red Dot Award in the elite “Best of the Best” category.

modility: booking and placement portal for intermodal transport

modility is an online booking and placement portal for intermodal transport in Europe with a focus so far 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. During the 2023 financial year, modility was named as a finalist in the 2023 German Logistics Awards by the Bundesvereinigung Logistik (BLV).

heyport: digital scheduling platform for port calls

The open platform heyport – currently being spun off – brings together terminals, shipping companies, agents and other players in the port environment for the purpose of digital scheduling. With its one-stop-shop approach, heyport offers various integration options right from the start to ensure that operating decision-makers always have all the latest scheduling data to hand. Our own analyses, as well as IMO studies, show that just-in-time port calls can cut greenhouse gas emissions between the ports by up to 14 %. Simple coordination of berth availability via a scalable network significantly reduces the scheduling time required for all parties. More than 2,000 ship calls at container, RoRo and bulk terminals have been coordinated and scheduled via heyport so far.

passify: platform for the automation of handling processes

The passify platform – currently being spun off – enables truck drivers or operators of logistics sites, such as container terminals, to fully automate their handling processes. A smartphone app enables truck drivers to verify their identity and check themselves in so they can receive access authorisations and all the information they need for the handling process. The platform enables the automated processing of truck arrivals, including advance announcements, security checks and appointment scheduling. The application can be flexibly integrated into various processes and systems within the terminal, processes real-time information and thus facilitates proactive resource management, as well as the optimised, flexible handling of trucks. In addition, passify offers extensive applications for the digital management of logistics sites, such as access management and site security.


FERNRIDE is developing a platform for autonomous electric trucks and solutions to integrate them into existing logistics processes by gradually increasing autonomy via remote operation. As autonomous trucks are a highly relevant topic for HHLA, HHLA Next decided to acquire a stake in FERNRIDE. An increasing shortage of drivers coupled with European efforts to decarbonise heavy goods transport as one of the main emitters of greenhouse gases, along with the applicability of the technology at HHLA terminals were the main factors behind this decision. The first pilot project was successfully completed at HHLA TK Estonia in 2023.

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

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Initiative


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






in planning

Pin-Handling-mR (mobile robotics)


Development of automated pin handling for container wagons using mobile robotics


Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft e.V.




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


ma-co maritimes competenzcentrum GmbH




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 segment1



Project goal

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


The projects are still in the start-up phase, so no information on funding, contractual partners or defined durations is currently available

Project overview: Logistics segment



Project goal






Project duration



Automatic, AI-integrated scheduling for universal terminals to digitalise manual processes for receiving, storing and loading heterogeneous, non-standardised rolling goods


HITeC e.V., akquinet port consulting GmbH




03/2022 –12/2024



Research project on the autonomous use of drones in industrial and handling facilities, taking into account all safety criteria and AI-supported control


Hochschule Osnabrück


Federal Ministry of Finance


01/2023 – 12/2023

Hafenplan ZEN


Strategic port planning based on digital twins - the quality of strategic port planning and the measures mapped therein is to be increased through holistic simulations


University of Hamburg




11/2022 – 04/2025



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


Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)


12/2021 – 11/2026


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

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.
Short for “roll on, roll off”, RoRo is a means of loading cargo which can simply be rolled or driven onto or off a ship. Most rolling cargo consists of cars of trucks, but project cargo is also transported in this way on special trailers.
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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