Germany greenlights China’s stake in Hamburg Port

Lazy eyes listen


Despite security fears and complaints from members of the ruling coalition, the German government has given final clearance to a long-debated agreement that allows China’s state-run business COSCO to purchase a significant share in a container port in Hamburg Port.

Berlin approved the contentious contract in October, but revealed plans to reconsider last month. The review occurred shortly after the BSI, Germany’s national cybersecurity office, identified the Tollerort container terminal as critical German infrastructure, implying that the transaction could have been subject to additional scrutiny.

A representative for the German government said in a statement on Wednesday that Berlin was “sticking” to the decision from October without making any changes, and that the transaction was consistent with the BSI’s certification of the terminal as critical national infrastructure.

According to the statement, the government told domestic port logistics firms HHLA and COSCO that the agreement complied with a cabinet resolution that limits the Chinese state company’s participation in the terminal to less than 25%.

The deal was met with fierce criticism from the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP), coalition allies of Chancellor Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD). The coalition had demanded that the contract be revisited, as well as that COSCO’s stake in the port be decreased.

Critics claim that the agreement, which marks the Chinese group’s eighth acquisition of a stake in an EU port, poses huge security concerns because it gives Beijing disproportionate power over the bloc’s port infrastructure.

Simultaneously, HHLA, which supports the agreement, stated that it will make Hamburg Port a preferable location for COSCO, so helping to secure jobs. The arrangement, according to the operator, will increase Hamburg’s national and international relevance as a logistics hub.

Almost one-third of the commodities handled through the port’s terminals originate in or are destined for China, which has been Germany’s greatest trade partner for the past seven years. The value of trade between the countries reached a record high of €298 billion ($320 billion) last year.