Hungary’s maritime traffic has significantly increased

Posted by Bíró Koppány Ajtony

Even though Hungary has no sea, tons of goods arrived in containers at sea

Container traffic arriving to Hungary by sea increased by 20% in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period of the previous year. According to the analysis carried out by the Association of Hungarian Logistics Service Centres (MLSZKSZ), 64% of the turnover was from import: the goods came to Hungary mainly from the Far East, from the southern ports – mainly as raw material for the manufacturing industry. At the same time, finished products leave the country mostly by road transport, and to a lesser extent by rail.

It is since 2020 that the MLSZKSZ has been collecting and analysing the container traffic data of the shipping companies present in Hungary. The reporting shipping companies cover more than 95 percent of the Hungarian container market, their data show well the reaction of the Hungarian economy to changes in the world market, the performance of freight transport, and they also indicate the economic trends of the country.

In the first half of 2021, stacked container traffic arriving by sea reached 168,145 TEU, an increase of 20 percent compared to the same period in 2020. Although last year’s base was low due to the pandemic, sales in the first half of this year reached pre-epidemic levels. Meanwhile, due to the problems present in the maritime freight transport – lack of containers, stoppage of traffic in the Suez Canal, etc. – freight rates have risen significantly (more than fivefold) and keep rising steadily, sometimes changing significantly even within a given month.

Comparison of maritime container traffic in Hungary in the 1st half of 2020 and the 1st half of 2021 by direction

Most of Hungary’s sea container traffic is imported (64 percent), and it arrives in the country mostly through southern ports by rail or loaded on trucks. All this shows that the domestic manufacturing background is still very strong, requiring foreign raw materials, mainly from the Far East. The main direction of import/export container traffic to Hungary is associated with the southern ports. While in 2020 the volume of goods coming from the south was eleven times that of the north, in the first half of 2021 this ratio decreased to a sevenfold difference due to a 78 percent increase in imports from the north.

Finished products are mostly exported from the country by road, and to a lesser extent by rail. Northbound and southbound exports from Hungary towards maritime traffic are more or less balanced, but they show significant changes compared to the previous year. While the Hungarian export turnover to the south increased only slightly, the export to the north increased markedly, by 66 percent.

The problems of maritime transport and the drastic rise in freight rates have also increased the demand for the previously more expensive intercontinental rail transport, from which Hungary may also benefit in the medium term. Although rail fares have also risen due to the growing demand, charges for the two modes of transport have by now levelled off. The growing demand for intercontinental rail transport has shown that Polish and Belarusian terminals handling goods arriving from Asia to Europe are no longer able to handle this traffic. The Malaszewicze railway transhipment station operates at the limit of its maximum capacity, with 6-10 days of waiting and congestion affecting trains from Asia. The East-West Gate intermodal railway terminal, which is being built in Fényeslitke, Hungary, will bring significant relief in rail traffic between Europe and Asia from next year, and will also actively include Hungary in rail freight traffic between the two continents.

“There are profound changes happening in the international freight market that are having a significant impact not only on sea and rail traffic, but above all on the long-distance road transport. The aim of the MLSZKSZ is to help the participants of the Hungarian freight market to prepare for the changes and for the transition to environmentally friendly modes of transport. Only in this way will the companies be able to remain competitive and the Hungarian and EU climate targets met,” emphasized Koppány Ajtony Bíró, Secretary General of the Association.

As part of this, the MLSZKSZ will organize the Eastern European Intermodal Conference in Budapest on October 14-15, 2021, at which, among other things, will be discussed the opportunities of the Hungarian logistics market in the Far East, preparation for global changes, environmentally friendly modes of transport and intermodal transport trends and solutions.

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