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Hamburg – the gateway to the world

As a trade, transport and service center and with its world-leading seaport, Hamburg has been of national importance for centuries. Many sectors of the economy that are directly or indirectly connected to the port are based in the city and in the surrounding area.


Logisticjobs in Hamburg

Economic heavyweight
in northern Germany

Economic areas such as freight transport, logistics and the maritime economy have grown historically and are connected to the port. But the aviation industry, consumer goods industry, chemicals, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, vehicle construction and shipbuilding, the mineral oil industry, banks, media and insurance companies as well as the trade and service sector also play an important role.

The economic importance of Hamburg can be seen from the fact that many listed companies have their headquarters here. These are

  • Beiersdorf AG
  • alstria office
  • Aurubis AG
  • Evotec SE
  • TAG Immobilien AG
  • Deutsche EuroShop AG
  • Encavis AG
  • Fielmann AG
  • Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG
  • Jungheinrich AG
  • New Work SE

The largest employer in Hamburg with over 14,000 employees is Airbus and comes from the aviation industry. The Airbus factory in Finkenwerder is the largest German aircraft manufacturing site and the third largest in the world after Seattle and Toulouse.

Other well-known companies are also based in Hamburg and are evidence of a diversified economic structure: The consumer goods group Beiersdorf not only has its headquarters in Hamburg, but also an important production site. The Hamburg Mercedes-Benz plant manufactures axles and components for passenger cars. The German subsidiary of the Dutch Philips group produces, among other things, healthcare products. NXP Semiconductors was spun off from the Philips group, and semiconductor production continues in Hamburg. Aurubis AG operates Europe’s largest copper smelter in Hamburg and is active in copper refining and the manufacture of special products that are secondary elements from copper production.

The food manufacturers Unilever and Carl Kühne KG and the wind turbine manufacturer Nordex only have administrative locations in Hamburg.

The Hamburg companies Jungheinrich and Still have specialized in the development and production of industrial trucks. However, the production sites are in Norderstedt (Schleswig-Holstein) and in Lüneburg (Lower Saxony), i.e. in the metropolitan region. This shows that the area around Hamburg is a structurally strong region. Cities like Buchholz, Seevetal, Lauenburg, Geesthacht, Quickborn or Pinneberg are attractive locations for companies. Due to the good public transport connection to Hamburg, the surrounding communities are also popular places to live.

The port of Hamburg

Port rights were granted to the city as early as the 12th century. Over the next two centuries and under the influence of the Hanseatic League, Hamburg developed into a flourishing trading center. The city and its port became the most important German transhipment and stacking point between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea for goods from Europe and other regions of the world known at the time.

In the meantime, the port in front of Bremerhaven and Wilhelmshaven has developed into the largest seaport in Germany and the third largest in Europe after Rotterdam and Antwerp. The largest turnover is made with container handling. The dimensions are also impressive in terms of area, the port area covers around 7,400 hectares. The growth takes place not only in the area, but also in depth. Since container ship sizes with a maximum draft of more than 16 meters are already being planned, the need to deepen the Elbe repeatedly leads to political discussions and is sometimes an election campaign issue with reference to job security. A deepening of the fairway of the Lower Elbe by 1.50 meters has been requested from the federal approval authorities, which is currently being examined.

In terms of infrastructure, the Port of Hamburg has a.o. four container terminals, 13 harbor basins and more than 320 berths for seagoing vessels. With Blohm + Voss there is a shipyard and with Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) and Eurogate GmbH & Co. KGaA there are two main container terminal operators in Hamburg.

It is up to Hamburg to defend a strong position in global sea freight traffic. The Port of Hamburg still ranks 15th worldwide in terms of handling volume, and for individual goods (such as carpets) it is the largest transshipment port in the world. Goods are mostly transshipped as general cargo, almost exclusively in containers. Therefore, it is not surprising that in the field of goods handling, the work area of ​​storage and transport has become ever larger. In addition to goods handling, industrial production and raw material processing, in particular the refinery of mineral oil, is of great importance. Grain mills and companies from the fields of coffee and tea processing can also be found here.

Freight transport and logistics

The Port of Hamburg is an important hub for international and national freight traffic. These processes are also characterized by intermodal transport, i.e. the linking of water, rail and road transport modes. In 2013, the European Union decided to also integrate the freight transport corridors into the trans-European transport network. This means that rail connections between North Sea ports and Mediterranean ports should be improved. With measures such as the construction of the Brenner Base Tunnel, it will be possible in future to transport goods overnight from Hamburg to Genoa.

Since many companies use Hamburg and its port for handling, distribution and storage of their goods, logistics is one of the most important economic sectors in Hamburg.

By far the company with the highest turnover in this area is Hermes Europe GmbH. It is a subgroup within Germany’s largest mail order company, the Otto Group. Hermes is not only a logistics company, but is also active in fulfillment and parcel services.

This is followed by Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) as the operating company for the Port of Hamburg. Among other things, HHLA operates three out of four container terminals in the Port of Hamburg. Port handling, container and transport logistics form the core business. In addition, it maintains worldwide shareholdings.

Also of importance is VTG AG, which was founded in 1951 as the state-owned Vereinigte Tanklager und Transportmittel GmbH and was privatized ten years later. Today, the company is the leading private railway logistics and wagon hire company in Germany and, with 94,000 wagons, has the largest private fleet of freight wagons in Europe. In addition to the transport of bulk and general cargo in single wagon and block train traffic, the rail transport of liquid gases, mineral oil and chemical products is another focus.

Hamburg is also connected to ports in Scandinavia and the Baltic States via the Kiel Canal. This northern European main traffic artery is also an efficient connection to the German Baltic Sea ports of Flensburg via Kiel, Lübeck, Sassnitz, Warnemünde and Rostock. In general, the route through the Kiel Canal shortens 250 nautical miles, for which a ship would need 14 to 18 hours. A trip through the canal, on the other hand, takes only six to eight hours, which means an interesting incentive for international maritime transport companies. The port of Kiel is also connected to the Kiel Canal. Its turnover in combined cargo traffic is almost 30,000 trailers and containers, which are transported via combined terminals for port area traffic by road and rail.

German competitors
in sea freight traffic

With the Bremerhaven container terminal and the JadeWeserPort in Wilhelmshaven, there is also national competition that would like to take some of the sea freight traffic from the port of Hamburg. The terminal in Bremerhaven has already been expanded to become the largest contiguous container terminal in the world and has a facility for combined transport, in which incoming and outgoing sea freight containers and transport by road and rail can be reloaded.

The aim of the JadeWeserPort is to be another transshipment port for container loads to and from Scandinavia, the Baltic States and Russia, alongside Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg. The sea freight containers from overseas are reloaded here onto feeder ships, trains, trucks or barges. The freight traffic center in Bremen, which is now the largest freight traffic center in Germany, also benefits from the development of the port. At the heart of this logistics hub is a terminal for combined transport. In addition, this GVZ is home to Europe’s largest high-rise warehouse, which is operated by the BLG Logistics Group.

The port in Emden is geared more specifically to car handling. With the construction of the VW plant in 1964, automobile production started there, primarily for export. The port, which has also been equipped with trimodul, is currently the third largest car loading port in Europe after Bremerhaven and Zeebrugge.