Sit in the German port city of Hamburg and you’ll have a good sense for the global economy outside of the U.S..
That’s because Hamburg is the nerve centre for trade between Germany and the world, which includes Germany’s intimate and globally-important economic relationship with China.
Hamburg used to be a ghost town, but just over a year later it’s booming once again.
For months, the scene resembled a still life with cranes. The container cranes’ arms were raised into the sky, as if they had capitulated in the face of the economic downturn. Occasionally, but only occasionally, a ship passed by the bleak silhouette of the terminal. The port, which usually buzzes with life around the clock, was almost silent.
Carsten Pohl, 36, who works as a vessel planner in Altenwerder, has also noticed the upturn. His job is to make sure that the giant container ships that moor in Altenwerder, one of the world’s most efficient container hubs, are optimally loaded. The ships tend to call at several European ports as part of their route between, say, Asia and Europe, and are therefore not completely loaded or unloaded in Hamburg.
Now, tens of thousands of containers are stacked up again in endless rows, waiting for their onward journey by smaller ship, truck or train. About one-third of the goods that arrive here have the Hamburg area as their destination, one-third go on to other German and Eastern European destinations and the other third are bound for ports in the Baltic Sea.
Activity hasn’t yet returned to pre-crisis highs, but it’s getting there. Add in the fact that Geman unemployment just hit a multi-decade low, and that economists have been hiking German 2011 GDP forecasts, and it’s pretty clear that Germany is experiencing one heck of a recovery.