HHLA Chronicle

Founding of the “Staatliche Kaiverwaltung” (State Quays Administration) that is incorporated in HFLG in 1935. This builds Hamburg’s first modern port facility on Sandtorkai that serves worldwide as a model for similar facilities and permits its subsequent rise to become a world port.


“Hamburger Freihafen-Lagerhaus-Gesellschaft” (HFLG) is founded on 7 March to build and operate Hamburg’s Speicherstadt that at the time was the world’s largest and most technically advanced logistics centre.


Covering 60% of its subsequent total area, the first construction stage of Speicherstadt is punctually completed in time for Hamburg’s accession to the German Customs Union.


By the outbreak of World War I, Hamburg has risen to become the world’s third largest port after London and New York.



The State Quays Administration installs a mobile conveyor system for bananas with full weather protection. 1934 Construction of the first special shed for bananas. Hamburg is the No. 1 fruit port in Europe. The State Quays Administration makes a substantial contribution with its innovations.

On 1 April the loss-making State Quays Administration is vested in the commercially more successful HFLG. 1939 Combining handling and storage under one roof, the new company is re-named “Hamburger Hafen und Lagerhaus-Aktiengesellschaft” (HHLA).


During the war, forced labourers and concentration camp prisoners were deployed in the port and at HHLA, organised centrally by the Gesamthafenbetriebsgesellschaft (GHB).

From 1939 onwards


The extent of war damage is tremendous, with 90% of quayside sheds destroyed and two-thirds of all warehouses unfit for use. No more than 1.8 million tons can be handled, no more than back in 1865. 


HHLA for the first time puts a forklift into service that replaces heavy manual work with barrows and hastens standardization of goods traffic. Reconstruction of the port is almost complete

HHLA starts building the most modern banana shed in Europe. Elevators can transport bananas from the ship into the shed with full protection against the weather.


Handling of the first RoRo ship in Hamburg: Cars roll over HHLA’s new ramps at Shed 10.


Inauguration of Überseezentrum – Overseas Centre – as the world’s largest distribution shed. This distribution facility for collective general cargo shipments initially covered an area of 145,000 square metres.  


The “American Lancer”, the first full containership comes to Hamburg, being handled by special container gantry cranes at the future Container Terminal Burchardkai.


The new port regulations free HHLA from all sovereign duties and put the company on a commercial footing. All companies in the port business community now have to finance their superstructure – e.g., cranes and buildings – from their own funds. A wave of new investments commences.


HHLA is increasingly active commercially, setting up HPC Hamburg Port Consulting, for instance, which is soon offering consultancy in port and transport logistics worldwide.


Opening of the technically pace-setting HHLA Fruit and Refrigeration Centre, with almost doubled refrigerated storage space.


Opening of a HHLA container terminal at O'Swaldkai that as a multi-purpose terminal specializes in handling RoRo cargo and fruit logistics.


Installation of radio data transmission systems that help to perfect container positioning by straddle carriers



HHLA’s rail affiliate Polzug sets the first commercial container block train to Eastern Europe rolling. The container transport network between the port and its hinterland is expanded, with HHLA acquiring stakes in additional intermodal companies.

Burchardkai is the first container terminal in the world to use satellite data for precise container positioning in the storage area


HHLA acquires the container terminal at Tollerort.


With the completion of the deepening of the Elbe a boom phase commences for the Port of Hamburg, with sustained double-digit growth rates in container traffic. Hamburg profits from its position as the most important port in Europe for East Asia and the Baltic region.


Ceremonial opening of Container Terminal Altenwerder. Today this remains the facility with the highest degree of automation anywhere in the world.


After two years of building work and extensive renovation by architects Gerkan, Marge & Partner, HHLA’s administration moves back again to the long-established head office at Bei St. Annen 1.


HHLA has restructured itself and is now headed by a strategic management holding company. The Group focuses its activities on the four segments Container, Intermodal (hinterland transport services), Logistics and Real Estate. 


HHLA launches the largest investment programme in its history. This is focused on boosting future capacity in Hamburg to more than 12 million standard containers TEU per year, extending HHLA’s transport network, and in investments in expanding O’Swaldkai multi-functional terminal.



HHLA updates its name, with “Hamburger Hafen- und Lagerhaus-AG” becoming “Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG”.

Metrans’s third inland terminal meanwhile is built in Dunajská Streda, situated on the Slovakian-Hungarian border.


Successful stock exchange launch (IPO) of HHLA.


Important investment programme milestones are taken into service at Burchardkai: the new block storage boosts the facility’s capacity.


HHLA and German Rail (DB) restructure their intermodal holdings. While DB becomes sole owner of Transfracht, HHLA takes over its shares in Metrans and Polzug Intermodal.


HHLA subsidiary Metrans acquires the first twenty TRAXX multi-system locomotives from Bombardier. The aim is to significantly increase the company’s own traction fleet and value added.


Following a period of construction, berths at CTB have been reinforced and equipped with the most modern tandem container gantry cranes. They are now able to process the newest generation of mega container ships.


HHLA acquires Estonia’s biggest terminal operator Transiidikeskuse AS.



As part of its growth strategy, HHLA supports the development of start-ups and contributes to forward-looking technology companies working in the fields of drone technology and 3D printing. A joint venture was established to develop a component for the deployment of hyperloop technology in ports.

2020 / 2021

HHLA continues to grow and is investing in port handling (HHLA PLT in Trieste), intermodal transportation (UIC in Ukraine) and in new innovative sectors (together with iSAM).