Almost all areas have recovered from the downturn in 2020 caused by the pandemic

In the year 2021, the Coronavirus pandemic once again played a central role. Although world trade began to recover, the catch-up effects of the various national economies and the Chinese “zero-COVID policy” continued to disrupt global supply chains which had previously run so smoothly.

Goods either do not arrive at all or they arrive too late, containers pile up at the terminals because they can no longer immediately be forwarded to their final destination, as they could before the pandemic.

Dr Claudia Schilling, Senator for Science and Ports, comments:

“The ports of Bremen were also affected by the supply chain disruptions. Nevertheless, the ports of Bremen remained fully functioning during the second year of the pandemic and despite the resulting difficult health and hygiene regulations. The port employees, the ships’ crews and the port and logistics industry succeeded in upholding supplies to the German and European economies even during these difficult times. And despite Corona, we can actually report an improvement in throughput figures for the ports of Bremen.”

In 2021, the quays and terminals in Bremen and Bremerhaven handled 69.7 million tons of seaborne freight (plus 4.8 per cent). This marked a recovery from the downturn in seaborne freight throughput the previous year due to the pandemic, when the figure was 66.5 million tons.

Total throughput was slightly higher than the figure for 2019 (69.4 million tons). The provisional throughput figure for 2021 breaks down into 12.9 million tons of freight handled at the port facilities in Bremen-City (plus 23.6 per cent) and 56.8 million tons in Bremerhaven (plus 1.3 per cent). Both port locations were back up to the throughput figures for the year 2019 again, with Bremen-City even reporting a slight increase.

There was a significant year-on-year increase in the volume of freight handled at the ports of Bremen in 2021, with total throughput of 9.7 million tons (plus 12.5 per cent). The positive trend for bulk freight (9.1 million tons, plus 14.6 per cent) and general cargo (3.7 million tons, plus 52.9 per cent) in 2021 meant a significant increase in total throughput, which amounted to 12.9 million tons at the port facilities in Bremen-City (plus 23.6 per cent).

General cargo throughput rose by 3.7 per cent to just under 60 million tons. This growth in the figures for general cargo can be attributed to the sharp increase in the non-containerised segment, where throughput was up by 23.2 per cent to almost 8.4 million tons. However, there was also a slight increase of 1.1 per cent in container throughput, which rose to 51.6 million tons. Expressed in standard containers (TEU), growth was far higher and rose by 5.2 per cent to more than 5 million TEU. This also meant slight growth compared with the figure for 2019 (just under 4.9 million TEU).

Automobile throughput in Bremerhaven remained stagnant at just over 1.7 million vehicles (minus 0.8 per cent). According to Acea (European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association) the number of newly registered vehicles in Europa in 2021 was around 20 per cent lower than in 2019, the year before the pandemic. This directly affects automobile throughput in Bremerhaven. The total figure for 2021 breaks down into roughly one third as inbound seaborne freight, two thirds referred to outbound seaborne freight.

ISL study on the macroeconomic importance of the ports

The success of the ports of Bremen is measured primarily in terms of the throughput figures and the financial results published by the local port and logistics companies. However, the macroeconomic importance of the ports of Bremen is rarely backed by specific figures.

In 2019, the Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL) was commissioned by what was then the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure to draw up a standardised method for calculating the economic effects of the German ports. This method enables calculation of the overall economic effects of all the German ports as well as the effects of the individual port locations. Moreover, this new standardised method replaces the highly diverse approaches taken by previous “port studies” conducted at regional economic level, and thus also supersedes previous studies conducted for the ports of Bremen. This minimises the multiple assessments of the macroeconomic effects of individual port locations.

The Senator for Science and Ports therefore commissioned the ISL to assess the macroeconomic significance of the ports of Bremen for the years 2019/2020 using this new standardised methodology. Because this new, different method was applied, the findings of this study are not comparable with the effects on the labour market published in previous studies.

Jobs – in the Federal Land of Bremen and throughout Germany

In 2019, the ports of Bremen safeguarded a total of 38,800 jobs in the Federal Land of Bremen. A total of 6,400 persons were employed directly in port and terminal operations and complementary services and thus account for only a smaller share. The direct effects of port-related transport chains and industry account for 26,500 employees and play a key role in the overall figure.

The impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on the number of jobs safeguarded by the ports of Bremen in the Federal Land of Bremen can only be estimated. The ISL assumes that jobs directly related to the ports in the Federal Land of Bremen decreased by approx. 3.3 per cent in 2020. As transhipment business gradually recovers in the course of 2021 and over the following years, it is assumed that the number of jobs will increase once again.

The ports of Bremen are a central element of the marine economy and of outstanding importance for the Federal Land of Bremen, the whole of Germany and, as an international hub in hinterland and transhipment traffic, also for other European countries. In addition to this key role in international goods trade, the port-related industry in Bremen generates high added value, which in turn leads to a high number of highly qualified jobs both in the region and throughout Germany. The overall macroeconomic importance of the ports of Bremen is evident when one considers their function as gateway to the global markets for German export and import businesses. In 2019, this gateway function of the ports of Bremen accounted for 344,900 industrial jobs throughout Germany.

The Covid 19 pandemic had an adverse impact on the economy not only in Bremen, but throughout Germany. The ISL has calculated a decrease of around 2.5 per cent in the number of jobs in the manufacturing and processing industry sectors for the year 2020. The decrease for the automotive industry, which is of extreme significance for the ports of Bremen, amounted to 2.8 per cent.

Further information and materials about port performance in 2021 is available at



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