MSC announces takeover of HHLA terminal group

14 September 2023

Hamburger Hafen und Logistik (HHLA), a primary German terminal group present mainly in the port of Hamburg, has announced the intention of the MSC Group to launch a takeover bid for 49,9% of its own listed shares, while the remaining 50.1% will stay in the hands of HGV, a company controlled by Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (FHH).

The German company is also present in Italy with HHLA Plt Italy in Trieste, where MSC already controls the Trieste Marine Terminal.

The Aponte family-controlled Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC), owners of the world’s largest container line, already has a large and consolidated presence in Europe, especially in the Belgian port of Antwerp. This new strategic acquisition would encompass the whole HHLA group, including its rail logistics affiliates, Hamburg terminals, and container terminal assets located outside of Germany, in Tallinn-Muuga, Odesa and Trieste.

The financial operation is accompanied by MSC’s commitment to ensure the economic revival of the Port of Hamburg both in terms of employment and throughput, the relocation of its German liner shipping headquarters from Bremen to Hamburg, and the shift of the German centre of MSC Cruises from Munich to Hamburg, highlighting the long-term commitment of MSC to further strengthening the city’s position as a hub for maritime and logistics activities.

Earlier this year, HHLA made headlines by selling a stake in one of its three terminals in Hamburg port to the Chinese shipping firm Cosco. China is currently Germany’s and the Port of Hamburg’s largest trading partner, with around 30% of its traffic flowing between Asia and Europe.

Vertical integration of shipping lines is a long-standing issue that remains a constant cause of concern to the union movement. The extension of their operations to port terminals, logistics, but also air freight and rail raises concerns about employment and working conditions, fair competition, service quality and efficiency.

The MSC bid will need to be approved at a state level, with the executive board of HHLA stating that it will review and evaluate the offer.

The ETF fully supports the position expressed by our German union Ver.di: the operation could put the national maritime strategy at risk, while German seaports secure employment for around 5.6 million people in Germany, which is reason enough to keep them in public hands.

The possible decision could lead Hamburg to fall into the hands of the shipping companies, thus abandoning a future-proof national port strategy. For these reasons, the union movement urges the relevant institutions to revise this choice and return to a common national port strategy, as this is the only way to secure the future of German seaports and ensure the preservation of jobs, fair working conditions and the respect of the collective agreement.


Berardina Tommasi,

Policy Officer for Dockers