Germany – An Important Hub for International Freight Transport

As Europe’s largest economy and with the fourth highest GDP in the world, Germany is a world leader in exports. The freight services sector in Germany is supported by a wide range of shipping companies and freight companies. Germany does import fuels and raw materials, however it has a large trade surplus and its exports are in high demand in many overseas markets.

In fact, Germany was the world’s largest exporter from 2003 to 2008, according to the World Trade Organisation, and thus a key player in freight forwarding and international freight. In 2009, it was the world’s second largest exporter and the third largest importer of goods, whilst still generating a trade surplus of nearly 200 billion dollars. Germany is the world leader in mechanical engineering, with about 20% of the global market. Germany’s most important trading partners are the European Union, especially France, and the United States.

Since the expansion of the European Union in 2004, Germany has also seen an increase in freight transport and trade with countries such as Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia and Hungary

Freight services to and from Germany are shaped by the country’s location right in the centre of Europe. It has borders with more European countries than anywhere else. This includes Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It is bordered by the North Sea in the North West and the Baltic Sea in the North East. Germany is crossed by some of the most important rivers in Europe, such as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe.

Its position at the centre of Europe and its high levels of import and export trade mean that Germany has become an important hub for transportation and international freight.

Evidence of this can be found in the highly modern transport networks available to the freight company and shipping company. Firstly, there is the Autobahn network, with no blanket speed limits on most of the routes.

The high speed trains, the Inter City Express (ICE) travel at speeds of up to 300 km/h, connecting major German cities and international destinations. These are used by many shipping companies and freight companies seeking to transport international freight to or from Germany.

There are also a number of airports in Germany,with Frankfurt International and Munich International the global hubs of Lufthansa. Other important airports are Berlin Tegel, Berlin Schonefeld, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Cologne and Leipzig. Again, these are very important to the shipping company and freight forwarders, consolidating Germany’s position as an international hub for freight transport.

canals connect the Elbe with the Ems, the Ems with the Dortmund and Baltic and the North Sea. Meanwhile, the Kiel canal connects the Baltic with the North Sea. The Rhine is the most important river and carries more freight forwarding than any other European waterway. The total length of inland waterways is 7500 km.Major river ports are Duisberg, Cologne, Bonn, Mannheim and Karlsruhe on the Rhine, Magdeburg and Dresden on the Elbe and Kiel on the Kiel Canal.

Major ports include Rostock, Luebeck, Emden, Hamburg and Bremen. Hamburg is the largest port in Germany, accounting for a third of all freight transport and with an illustrious history as a ‘Hansestadt’ at the heart of international trade in Europe since the Middle Ages.

As a hub for international freight services, it is not surprising that Germany’s trade buddies are diverse and widespread. France is the destination of 10% of freight transport of exports from Germany, followed by the United States at 9% and the UK at 8%. Italy accounts for 7% of all international freight from Germany, followed by the Netherlands and Belgium.China is home for 3% of freight transport from Germany, Russia 2% and Japan just under 2%. freight transport between Germany and China has been growing fast, with rising trends in both imports and exports.

Although growth of the domestic economy in Germany has been slowed by the integration of the eastern German regions, which is a costly and long term process, an aging population and high unemployment rate, Germany continues to dominate the international freight markets. Shipping companies and freight forwarders continue to thrive in this robust economy.

Germany’s continued high levels of exports and imports. combined with its central position in Europe and its accompanying role as a freight transport hub, means that Germany is a major driver of international trade and freight services worldwide.