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Hamburg's harbor - main thoroughfare for coffee and tea.

Hamburg's harbor - main thoroughfare for coffee & tea

Hamburg, a harbor in the north of Germany, linked with the North Sea and the Baltic Sea through a shipping canal and traditionally gate to Eastern Europe, now suddenly gets its heriditary hinterland back as matters in Eastern Europe change. This will certainly have an additional stimulating impact and increase the importance of the harbor.

Hamburg is connected with approximately 1,100 harbors from all over the world - 340 shipping lines run for Hamburg. It counts around 7,000 departures per year. The storage and turnover capacity is equal to [4,000,000 m.sup.2]. General trade (including stocks and transit) amounted in 1988 to 498,582 t and 261,885 until October 1989. In 1980, only 38.1 percent of the goods arrived in containers; containerization has now reached 60.7 percent in 1987 and continues to grow.

A fourth of the territory has free port status. Goods stored and handled within this area will only be subject to customs and value-added tax (e.g. in case of finishing) when they are actually transmitted into free circulation in West Germany. As this includes also drawing and tackling of samples, companies involved in trade with coffee or tea have taken advantage of the situation and hold offices within the boundary of the free port. This free port status attracted several hundred companies in earlier times. Nowadays, due to consolidation and concentration processes found all over the world, still about 50 companies involved in the coffee trade (importers, roasters and brokers) have their offices, door after door in the area around Brook, Pickhuben and Sandtorkai in the so-called Speicherstadt (photo 1). Equipped with an internal telephone line, and in walking distance, communication is fast and samples can be delivered and approved without delay. This is important as prices originate in London and New York but contracts will be settled in general only after samples have been approved. All attempts to use this area for other purposes came up against strong protests of its inhabitants who want to maintain the current situation for obvious reasons. Situated within the harbor but close to the city center, stockists, distributors, insurance companies, shipping lines, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. are within easy reach.

Approximately 10 million bags of coffee are handled in the harbor of Hamburg per year, with 3.5 million bags in transit. As statistics have been changed lately and will probably be changed again, only the figures for general trade in coffee are available:
 Table : Year Import Transit Total
1987 371,480 t 193,280 t 564,760 t
1988 302,116 t 187,466 t 498,582 t
1989 261,885 t


Facilities for all needs are provided. 800,000 to 1.0 million bags are in stock in the harbor on average. Still traditional warehousing is found in the Speicherstadt, which is quite suitable for delicate goods as the temperature is stable during the year due to the construction of the warehouses. Only the capacity is limited and handling is quite time consuming. Most of the moving is still done by manpower.

Flexible capacity is provided to these all-purpose-terminals equipped with modern cranes, container-trucks and fork-lift trucks. Special coffee designed facilities are also offered. As an example of fast and rational treatment the silo of the Kaffeelagerei (N.H.L. Hinsch & Cons.) (photo 2) appears.

The silo has a capacity of 7,200 tons, is 38 m high and contains 99 cells. The final blend, which will be delivered directly through pipelines into the waiting trucks (photo 3), is composed automatically per computer in accordance with the instructions given. It takes 20 minutes to fill a truck of 24 t. To empty a container of 20 feet takes about 35 minutes as coffee is in general still delivered in bags which have to be cut and emptied in a first step. More than 60 percent of the coffee arrives containerized. Facilities for bulk container delivery are installed and there is a tendency showing that bulk shipment increases but actually bags still outrank it by far.

Alone the company to which the silo belongs is holding a capacity for storage of 300,000 bags (photo 4). In spring, new halls with an additional capacity of 160,000 bags will be inaugurated.

Specialists with years of experience combined with modern equipment (photo 6) guarantee a proper handling of the commodities stored. Besides coffee, Hamburg is the most important harbor for tea in Germany.

General trade in 1989 amounted to 23,000 t, equal to 90 percent of the imports of West Germany. From Hamburg, tea is sent to the U.S., Scandinavian countries, and the U.K. Tea is still treated in a more traditional way. Standardization has not progressed as far as in the coffee trade as it is simply not suitable for vertical storage since the tea leaves can easily be broken. Tea is mainly kept in horizontal storage. Sometimes it arrives in heavy bulks up to 120,000 kg but the harbor is well prepared to handle those heavy lots.

The harbor of Hamburg sees its future not only in handling of goods but more and more as a service center. Data supported logistics is one of the key words and permanent increase of convenience another.

PHOTO : Photo 1. Speicherstadt.

PHOTO : Photo 2. Silo of Kaffelagerei (N.H.L. Hinsch & Cons.).

PHOTO : Photo 3. Outside the silo.

PHOTO : Photo 4. Silo capacity holds 300,000 bags.

PHOTO : Photo 5. New hall to be inaugurated shortly.

PHOTO : Photo 6. Handling commodities on modern equipment.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Author:Kuhrt, Cornel
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jun 1, 1990
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