© Thomas Lukassek container port hamburg
© Thomas Lukassek

MSC said today it intends to make Hamburg the “central hub” of its global network, and is committed to raising its annual throughput at the German port to one million teu.

It is part of the deal that sees Aponte-led MSC enter a binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the city of Hamburg to acquire a 49.9% holding stake in the port terminal, transport and logistics business of HHLA Group, majority-owned by the city.

The carrier said: “The aim of the partnership is to establish a strong and well-funded basis for the further development of HHLA and the entire port of Hamburg, making it a central hub for MSC’s globally connected network of container services.”

MSC added that it also intended to relocate its German headquarters from Bremen to Hamburg.

Alphaliner said the deal “could mark a turning point” for the port. The consultant added: “For more than a decade, container volumes at Hamburg have stagnated and the port has lost market share to its north range rivals of Rotterdam and Antwerp.”

Indeed, throughput across Hamburg’s container terminals in the first six months of the year was down 11.7% on the previous year, at 3.86m teu, whereas rivals Rotterdam and Antwerp-Bruges recorded smaller declines, a consequence of the economic downturn, of 8.2% and 5.2%, respectively.

Hit by the closure of its container terminal in Ukraine’s port of Odessa, HHLA’s overall throughput declined 14.6% at the half-year stage, to 2.88m teu.

Moreover, total revenue from its terminal business fell 19.7%, to €352m ($378m) and ebit plunged 76% to €19m, attributed to lower import volumes from Asia and a substantial reduction in storage fees.

HHLA’s revised guidance for the full year is for a “significant decrease” in revenue and an ebit in the range of €100m to €120m, down from the previous guidance of €145m-€175m.

Commenting on the deal to acquire the stake in HHLA, which is subject to approval by the city’s parliament in addition and a regulatory green light, MSC’s CEO Soren Toft said the company was “excited to build on the long-standing partnership” between the carrier and the city of Hamburg.

“This deal not only expands MSC’s global reach, but also unlocks the trade potential for the city of Hamburg and Germany,” he said.

Meanwhile, the senator of economy for the city, Dr Melanie Leonhard, said the senate was “committed” to the port’s development and was “convinced that MSC is a most reliable and trustworthy partner”.

She said: “By leveraging MSC’s expertise in maritime logistics, we aim to drive forward the digitalisation and the transformation of logistics in the port of Hamburg, ensuring prosperity and job security,”

City senator of finance Dr Andreas Dressel explained that the joint-venture partnership had an “indefinite time stipulation”, with an earliest termination possible after 40 years and added: “The city of Hamburg will retain the right to nominate the CEO and chair of the supervisory board of HHLA.”

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