Ham­burg serves as ‘gate­way to Europe’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By AN­GUS MCNEICE in Ham­burg an­gus@mail.chi­nadai­lyuk.com

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.

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