HHLA to Shut One Hamburg Terminal
HHLA, Hamburg's largest stevedore, is set to temporarily shutter one of its container terminals in response to a steep slump in cargo volume at Europe's third largest box hub. The company is negotiating with labor unions over closing down the Tollerort terminal, its smallest facility, and transferring its traffic and workers to the Burchardkai terminal.
The move follows a 33 percent slump in HHLA's traffic in 2009 to 4.9 million 20-foot equivalent units from 7.3 million TEUs in 2008.
The Tollerort is not the first container terminal in Europe forced to close as slumping cargo creates overcapacity across the Le Havre-Hamburg port range.
Container Terminal Amsterdam ground to a halt earlier in the year when it lost its last regular call -- a Europe-Far East service operated by the Grand Alliance consortium of ocean carriers that has been switched to nearby Rotterdam.
HHLA said last week that traffic had stabilized in the first two months of 2010 "but [there is] no recovery."
The publicly listed company, which also has a terminal in Odessa, Ukraine, is forecasting a low single digit rise in container traffic this year from the low 2009 level.
HHLA is cutting costs and postponing spending on new facilities to shore up profits which slumped 55 percent in 2009 to $216 million from $479 million a year ago.
By reducing the number of casual workers, not replacing retiring employees, cutting overtime and introducing short time working, HHLA has cut the volume of work at its Hamburg terminals by more than 20 percent.
HHLA has also staggered its 2009-2012 modernization and expansion program, with $810 million of the original planned investment of $1.6 billion deferred until after 2010. Spending in 2009 totaled $215 million against an originally budgeted $480 million.