The Port of Hamburg playing a key role on container block train transport

The Port of Hamburg playing a key role on container block train transport

China and the Port of Hamburg constitute a top partnership. That the Hanseatic City is the gateway to Europe for the Peoples’ Republic’s seaborne trade is nothing new. In 2017 alone, 2.62 million containers TEU crossed its quay walls in seaborne traffic with China, a total unmatched by any other country.


Historical Background

The basis a connection between China and the city of the Elbe that goes back centuries: The first Chinese cargo vessel called in the Port of Hamburg back in 1731. Several hundred Chinese companies in the Hanseatic City and dozens of Hamburg companies in China, along with its port partnerships with Shanghai and Shenzhen, emphasise the excellence of our relations.

Expansion of the Rail Network

The rail network between China and Western Europe is being expanded and renewed. Under the slogans ‘One Belt – One Road’ or also ‘New Silk Road’, the Peoples’ Republic is fostering this expansion and use of the rail route. As a powerful economic partner for the Chinese, the Port of Hamburg is helping make the running with the ‘China trains’.

The Hansaport is Europe’s No.1 Rail Hub             

Railborne freight transport has always been one of the Port of Hamburg’s great strengths. In 2017, 2.33 million containers TEU were transported via Hamburg in hinterland traffic by rail, more than in any other European port. This makes the city’s port Europe’s No. 1 Rail Hub.


    • Rail station  Alte Süderelbe Photo: HHM / Annette Krüger
    • Rail station Alte Süderelbe Photo: HHM / Annette Krüger

Two Opinions

Hamburg’s representative in Shanghai, Lars Anke,

also underlines the importance of the bilateral link: “Whether for transport links by sea or by land, Hamburg is seen in China as one of the most important terminuses for the Silk Road.”


Axel Mattern, CEO Port of Hamburg Marketing

The port’s key role for China trains is no accident, as HHM’s Joint CEO Axel Mattern stresses: “The Port of Hamburg is Europe’s largest logistics hub and the leading port centre for trade with China. Rail traffic makes a decisive contribution to the port’s logistics: Offering 2,000 container block train links per week on incoming and outgoing traffic, Hamburg is the top player on the market by a wide margin.“


Connections to China
In this context, the proportion of trains serving China is constantly growing. In 2017 around 177 weekly container train services were offered to/from locations in China, this year there are already 235, representing an advance of almost 25 percent. Currently, 27 different cities in China are served.


    • Intermodal database
    • Intermodal database
    • Operator Felb
    • Operator Felb

The Silk Road fills the gap between sea and air freight

Ship, rail or plane – when freight is shifted between China and Europe, a choice frequently has to be made between these three. Costs and time are important factors in any decision. The plane is unquestionably the fastest means of transport, export and import goods then require only between one and two days. Yet this solution is undoubtedly very costly. By contrast, transport by the sea route between the two continents is very economical, yet up to eight weeks can pass before goods have arrived at their destination. The third alternative, of transporting freight by rail, therefore closes the gap between ship and rail: Trains require two to three weeks between Asia and Europe and therefore also lie between the sea and air routes on costs too.

China is investing in the project “One Belt – One Road”

The Chinese started expanding train links and the rail network between East Asia and Western Europe in 2013, when Xi Jinping, the President of China, introduced the ‘One Belt – One Road’ project. The Chinese are pursuing ambitious plans: In 2014 not quite 800 trains with a volume of 25,000 TEU covered the New Silk Road between the Middle Kingdom and Western Europe. By 2016 there had been an increase to 1700 trains with total container volume of 145,000 TEU. By 2027, every year 670,000 TEU should be rolling across the Eurasian rail corridors.