North Sea traffic jam burdens trade: Freighters have been waiting for weeks to enter the port

Container ships are piling up in front of the ports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven.

North Sea traffic jam burdens trade: Freighters have been waiting for weeks to enter the port

Container ships are piling up in front of the ports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven. Several factors are currently converging, meaning that processing has been lagging behind for weeks. This puts a strain on trade in Germany.

According to the Institute for the World Economy (IfW), 24 container ships in the North Sea are waiting to be cleared in the German ports of Hamburg or Bremerhaven. "Some of the ships have been there for about three weeks now," said IfW expert Vincent Stamer. "This has consequences for trade between Germany and the EU with Asia."

The reasons for the traffic jam are, on the one hand, the high volume of ships in view of the continued high demand for goods worldwide. "In addition, there are distortions such as those caused by the lockdown in Shanghai, which have messed up the schedules of many shipping companies," said Stamer. "The capacities at the German ports are also partially exhausted. There is a lack of storage space for containers." The dockers' strike in July made the situation even worse.

According to the researchers, the volume of freight in the Red Sea, the main trade route between the EU and Asia, is already 21 percent lower than would be expected under normal circumstances. The gap is therefore largely due to a lack of freight from Europe to Asia. "The traffic jams in front of the German North Sea ports also contribute to this, because as a result container ships can no longer leave the port on time," says the IfW. "On the other hand, the consequences of the lockdown in the port of Shanghai seem to have been overcome." The economic metropolis had been in a tough corona lockdown for weeks.

According to the information, practically no trade is still possible via the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa. "The fact that the 'Razoni', the first cargo ship to transport grain from the overflowing storage facilities, has set sail in a long time is very positive news," said IfW expert Stamer. In order to transport the remaining 20 million tons away in time, around 570 more shiploads would have to be handled in the Ukrainian ports at short notice. That seems illusory not only in view of the war. "Precisely because the grain harvest is now starting again and the warehouses are urgently needed for this, other transport options such as trains and trucks must also be fully exploited."

Brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, Russia has eased its naval blockade to allow grain exports from Ukraine across the Black Sea. This is intended to prevent a food shortage, especially in poorer countries. A first grain freighter left the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa this week. Three more freighters followed this Friday.

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