COSCO unit’s stake in Hamburg port terminal to boost trade with Europe

A Cosco containership docks at the Tollerort container terminal in Hamburg port. [Photo/Agencies]

Germany’s approval of a Chinese company’s purchase of a minority stake in a container terminal at the Port of Hamburg will boost the port’s role as a key logistics hub for China-Europe trade, market watchers said on Thursday.

The German government announced on Wednesday it approved the 24.9 percent shareholding of Hong Kong-listed COSCO Shipping Ports Ltd in Container Terminal Tollerort, so far owned by Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG, a German container terminal operator.

HHLA had been urging the German government to make a decision since HHLA and CSPL announced the investment agreement in September 2021.

CSPL is a business unit of China COSCO Shipping Corp, the country’s largest shipping company by market share and fleet size.

HHLA welcomed the approval and said the investment would make the terminal a preferred handling location for the strong trade with China, where freight flows between Asia and Europe would be concentrated, according to its statement issued after the German government’s announcement.

China is Germany’s and the Port of Hamburg’s largest trading partner, with around 30 percent of the goods handled at the port coming from or going to China. As 1.35 million jobs depend on the ports in Germany, HHLA is aware of the key Hamburg port’s importance in serving companies and consumers in Germany and Europe, the company said in its statement.

Li Muyuan, executive vice-president of the China Container Industry Association in Beijing, said the Port of Hamburg has a significant geographical advantage and excellent distribution facilities. It is a crucial node for the China-Europe Railway Express freight train service.

Li said the port’s well-developed railroad networks and the presence of over 7,000 supporting businesses such as logistics firms, shipping services, warehouses and freight forwarders would enhance long-term planning, cargo management, job creation and integrated logistics services of the CTT.

CTT is one of three container terminals of HHLA at the Port of Hamburg. It has four berths and more than 10 container gantry cranes. CSPL’s parent company China COSCO Shipping Corp’s mega container vessels with a capacity of 20,000 twenty-foot equivalent units have been handled there, according to CSPL.

The terminal’s own railway station, which has five tracks, is connected to the hinterland, meaning goods can be moved quickly between CTT and other European destinations.

With both CSPL and HHLA saying they will finalize the transaction soon, the tie-up will support the growth of China-Germany trade in the years ahead, said Lin Meng, director of the Modern Supply Chain Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing.

As of March 31, CSPL operated and managed 367 berths at 37 ports globally, of which 220 were for containers, with an annual handling capacity of about 122 million TEUs.