Hamburg serves as ‘gateway to Europe’
In late November, 400 officials and business leaders convened in Hamburg for a SinoEuropean conference to discuss how Brussels and Beijing could navigate through the prospective choppy waters of US trade policy under a new administration. The location of the conference could not have been more fitting.
Germany, as Europe’s largest economy, relies heavily on exports, and 50 percent of German trade with China moves through Hamburg. On average, one in three shipping containers offloaded in Hamburg begins its journey in China.
Last year, China delivered more than 14 million metric tons of materials to the Ger- man city — everything from machinery to musical instruments — and more than 9 million tons made the reverse journey.
Hamburg is home to more Chinese offices than any other city on the continent — 500 companies have their European bases in Hamburg, including China’s largest shipping company, China COSCO Shipping Corporation.
But Hamburg is shaking off a hangover from a sluggish 2015, when imports from China fell by 15.5 percent.
The port authority is also waiting on what it calls “essential” permission to dredge the River Elbe.
Improving connectivity and communication with Chinese shipping companies and port authorities is essential if the Port of Hamburg is to main- tain its status as Europe’s second-busiest port, said Axel Mattern, CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing.
“China feeds the system,” Mattern said. “More than 30 percent of all the cargo discharged in Hamburg is from China. At the end of the day, the success of a port is how it’s connected to a client.”
In October, Mattern and representatives from the Hamburg Port Authority met with representatives of commerce and ports in the Pearl River Delta for talks on expanding co-operation.
“On our travels in China, we have found that language still frequently forms a barrier. We have very sophisticated digital services and we said this must be available for the Chinese market.”
The port has just completed a digital overhaul, and for the first time shipping companies, forwarders, and the entire transport and logistics sector can access the port’s services through a Mandarin portal.
Trade between Hamburg and China began its recovery this year, growing 0.6 percent in the first three quarters, and Mattern predicted more substantial growth in 2017.
A screenshot of the Chinese language web page of the transport and logistics sector of the Port of Hamburg.