EuropeGreater ChinaPorts and Logistics

COSCO puts Hamburg terminal investment on hold

China’s COSCO Shipping Ports has said it will delay completing the acquisition of a stake in a container terminal in Germany’s largest port to the end of the year.

COSCO’s terminal arm moved last year to take a 35% stake in the operator of the container terminal in Tollerort in the port of Hamburg, which would mark the first time ever that a foreign firm has been able to invest in this famous port.

Tollerort is one of three container terminals belonging to Hamburger Hafen und Lagerhausgesellschaft (HHLA), a company in which the local Hamburg government has a majority stake. HHLA and Hamburg’s mayor have approved the deal.

However, last month the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology started to voice concerns about COSCO’s entrance. Berlin must approve the deal, and now an investment review procedure based on the Foreign Trade Act is under way.

A rejection by Berlin would be “a one-sided, competition-distorting disadvantage for Hamburg compared to Rotterdam and Antwerp, where Cosco already owns terminal shares,” warned Hamburg’s mayor Peter Tschentscher, interviewed by Reuters.

COSCO is already well entrenched in the city, operating its intra-European brand, Diamond Line, from there.

The Hamburg/COSCO debate is part of wider discussion Germany is having about its interaction with China, with many businesses now openly talking of scaling back business there.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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