G20 Summit in Hamburg: Supply Chain Impacts on Road, Rail, Air and Ocean Freight

G20 Summit in Hamburg: Supply Chain Impacts on Road, Rail, Air and Ocean Freight

Executive Summary

  • The G20 summit in Hamburg on July 7 and 8 is expected to cause widespread traffic restrictions due to security measures and large-scale demonstrations against the meeting
  • Cargo handling will likely be impacted in the wider city area, with anticipated delays of 1-2 days for air freight and 2-3 days for road, rail and ocean freight
  • Alternative routes being considered include Frankfurt for air freight and Bremerhaven, Rotterdam and Antwerp for ocean freight


As Germany currently holds the presidency of the G20, an international forum for heads of state and delegates from the world’s 20 major economies, it will host this year’s summit in the port city of Hamburg on July 7 and 8. Over 6,000 delegates are expected and meetings will mainly be held at the Hamburg Messehallen Convention Center and the Elbphilharmonie. Heavy security measures were put in place by German authorities to provide security and mitigate disruptions, with about 20,000 police deployed throughout the city area.

Large-scale protest actions are expected around the two days of meetings. There is also a risk of unrest and violence by extremist groups, primarily anarchists and leftist activists, who may seek to exploit the high-profile nature of the summit to draw attention to their cause.

Security Measures

There will be two security spheres for the G20 events at the Hamburg Messe (Trade Fair) and the Elbphilharmonie. A red security zone with the highest security measures encircles the immediate surroundings of the event venues, while a larger yellow security zone has a wider perimeter around each venue and is the site of identification checkpoints for entry and exit into the respective security spheres. An interactive map of the security zones is accessible on the website of the Hamburg police: https://polizei- hamburg.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=5cbf5a6510714013af8928a909152872

Protests and demonstrations will take place across the city throughout the week, in particular from July 6 to 8. Police have approved nearly 30 demonstrations, though protesters are likely going to gather spontaneously and potentially seek to breach security zones or the restrictions of the transfer corridor to the airport. According to Hamburg state authorities, at least 7,000 extreme-left supporters are expected to convene in Hamburg for the summit and may pursue violent acts. As many as 12,000 people from multiple groups protested late on July 6 at various locations and clashes between protesters and police forces were reported until the morning of July 7. Several shops and cars were damaged, and more than 100 police officers were injured. It is expected that protest-related disruptions will continue throughout the city, as further demonstrations with an expected 50,000 to 250,000 participating protesters against the G20 Hamburg summit are planned through Sunday, July 9.

Traffic Restrictions

  • Marine traffic on Norderelbe River is closed on July 7 from 13:00 to 24:00 between the Elbphilharmonie and parts of the HafenCity while G20 guests attend the Elbphilharmonie.
  • Road traffic will certainly be severely impacted due to road closures as a result of planneddemonstrations and protests in various parts of the city including the port area as well as security zones around the Trade Fair and the Elbphilharmonie. On July 7, primary traffic arteries to and from the port area including Finkenwerder Strasse (to the West), Veddeler Damm (to the East) and Koehlbrandbruecke (to the East) may be closed for several hours. In addition, the Old Elbtunnel will be closed by Hamburg Port Authority due to maintenance works from July 6, 09:00 to July 9, 20:00. Road closures will also affect access to Hamburg International Airport.
  • Temporary border controls in the Schengen area were put in place by German authorities until July 11, in particular at the border with Denmark, potentially causing delays of up to 30 minutes on the southbound E45 motorway from Denmark
  • Due to G20 guests arriving at and departing from the summit, air traffic is also likely going to be restricted. As little information is available on delegations’ flight schedules, these restrictions may occur at all times and without prior announcement.

Supply Chain Impacts and Alternative Routes

Security zones and subsequent restrictions on marine, road and air traffic are almost certainly expected to have an impact on cargo movements with regard to all modes of transportation. Past G20 summits have shown that not only the areas around the summit locations, but also transport nodes in the wider city area will be affected. R360 customers are advised to take these special circumstances into account and expect longer transport and arrival times than usual.

Road freight

Road restrictions due to planned demonstrations and security cordons are likely going to have the biggest impact on shipment delays, according to tri-modal logistics service provider Contargo. In particular, unannounced protests and ad-hoc road closures make it difficult to mitigate delays by reverting to alternative routes. Cargo movements to and from port and airport areas will be affected by occasional closures throughout most of July 7 and 8. Australian freight forwarder S.A.L. Global Logistics has informed customers that it will be hard to predict the extent of shipment delays at key transportation hubs in Hamburg. Further, Hamburg-based freight forwarder Bursped confirmed that it expected the backlog of truck deliveries to last until the beginning or middle of next week.

Air freight

Increased air traffic due to the continuing arrival and departure of international guests is expected to cause flight delays and cancellations of commercial flights (both passenger and cargo). Cancellations may occur unannounced as airliners have no influence on decisions taken by the German authorities. Integrated logistics company Agility has advised customers that the Hamburg Cargo Center (HACC) at Hamburg Airport will be closed partially on July 6 starting 12:00, as well as on July 7 and 8. Other industry sources are also anticipating additional road closures on key access roads to Hamburg Airport. The restrictions are likely going to lead to a complete standstill of cargo handling during the period of July 5 to 8, delaying air freight by an estimated 1-2 days. Viable alternative routes which were said to be considered by some airlines would re-route air freight via Frankfurt in central Germany for on-carriage via rail or road.

Ocean freight

The majority of port operators in the port of Hamburg will have to adapt operations and schedules to the extensive traffic restrictions and potential disruptions on other modes of transport, i.e. rail traffic. Some protests and demonstrations were explicitly targeting Hamburg port operators, aiming to disrupt access roads and potentially even container terminals. One approved demonstration on July 6 is expected to block primary traffic arteries in the wider port area, such as Koehlbrandbrücke, Waltershofer Knoten und access roads to container terminals. If the road closures were to persist several hours, this would effectively bring pick-up and delivery movements to and from the port to a complete halt, so that cut-off deadlines may not be reached. Some of the G20 guests have scheduled visits of the port area which may further cause temporary traffic disruption. For instance, Chinese president Xi Jinping will reportedly go aboard the Chinese container ship CSCL Globe, which will thus make an additional port of call at the HHLA Tollerort Terminal, potentially reducing vessel loading capacity. Port operator HHLA was said to expect 10 vessels to call at its three container terminals at Altenwerder, Buchardkai und Tollerort on July 6; however, no information on delays of loading or discharging activities or vessel departures were available as of this writing. Industry sources were said to be considering alternative routes for ocean freight via Bremerhaven, (Germany), Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Antwerp (Belgium). It is, however, expected that disruptions to cargo handling in the Hamburg area during the period of July 5 to 8 will delay ocean freight by at least 2-3 days.

Rail freight

On June 21, several fires next to railway tracks in Hamburg and other German cities have been investigated for possible linkages to left-wing radicals who have announced their intention to disrupt logistics networks. At the time, in the Eidelstedt quarter and the Höltigbaum area of Hamburg train services on the Hamburg-Lübeck route have been disrupted as a result of the blazes. Other cities affected included Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Dortmund und Leipzig. In Bremen, a railway track close to Grolland was affected which is extensively used for freight traffic with about 20 to 30 train per day. Deutsche Bahn’s logistics arm DB Schenker has advised customers that further attempts to disrupt rail traffic cannot be excluded. If delays were to persist for several hours throughout the day, this would certainly have ripple effects on freight trains which usually run on night schedules. As a result, delays on rail freight shipments are expected to amount to 2-3 days.


Due to the dynamic situation around the G20 summit in Hamburg, it is not yet clear what the extent of shipment delays at key transportation hubs will be. Risk of container backlogs at Hamburg rail freight stations and in the port area are expected to persist until the beginning or middle of next week. In case of longer road closures in the port area and disruptions of rail traffic, the risk of delays and congestion will further increase and contingency plans via Frankfurt for air freight and via Antwerp, Rotterdam or Bremerhaven for ocean freight should be taken into consideration.

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