No other European port handles as much imports from and exports to China as the one in Hamburg. Port officials plan to expand cooperation with Chinese ports in the future even further.
Hundreds of Chinese companies have offices in Hamburg.
Last year, 1.3 million containers from and to China passed through Hamburg's port, up almost 15 percent from 2002. That's about one sixth of the port's business, making China the city state's most important trade partner. Both sides expect double-digit growth rates in the future. Shipping companies are already setting up new systems to deal with demand.
As a result, Shanghai and Hamburg harbors plan to work together more closely in the future, said Manfred Reuter, who works for Hamburg's economic and labor agency during a recent visit to Shanghai.
"Shanghai port is the world's third largest container port and has immense growth potential," Reuter told German public broadcaster MDR, adding that he expected Shanghai to climb to the top spot relatively soon. "We believe that our port can also benefit from an exchange of ideas and know-how. We're interested in finding out more about the way Asian ports are financed."
An employee exchange is one way in which Hamburg hopes to benefit from Chinese knowledge about port construction and management, Reuter said.
China's gateway to Europe
A young woman stands in front of Shanghai's skyline. The city's port can be seen to the left in the background.
While China mainly exports electronic equipment, clothes and toys via ships, Germany sends maschines and car parts across the oceans. Chinese ships usually dock in Hamburg, because its location makes it easier to get good to other European destinations than the Dutch ports of Antwerpen or Rotterdam, according to Reuter.
"China is a highly competitive market for the northern European ports," Reuter said, adding that Hamburg has managed to position itself as the winner so far. "For China, we are the gateway to the emerging markets of central, southern and eastern Europe, where many Chinese products go."
Hamburg and Shanghai are sister cities and have been doing business with each other for more than 130 years. China's two big shipping companies, COSCO and China Shipping, have offices in Hamburg, as do 320 other companies from the people's republic.
On the other hand, a Hamburg port consulting firm is involved in infrastructure planning for a new deep sea port in Shanghai that's currently under construction to deal with rising demand. The new port is expected to open in 2006.