Commencement of hearings on the planned adaptation of the fairway
March 19, 2009 - Hamburg would like to have the Lower and Outer Elbe fairways adapted to allow container ships with a draught of 13.50 metres (in salt water) to reach the port independent of the tides and ships with a draught of 14.50 metres (in salt water) to call at and leave the port in conjunction with the tides.
With the commencement of hearings the planning approval procedure for "Adapting the Lower and Outer Elbe for container ships with a draught of 14.50 m" is now entering a decisive phase. Proponents of the project are the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (represented by the Hamburg Port Authority) and the Federal Government (represented by the Water and Shipping Authority). The stretch of river under discussion for development extends from the Outer Elbe (Buoy 7 at km 755.3) into the Port of Hamburg as far as Altenwerder Container Terminal (Süderelbe up to km 619.5) and the central port area (Norderelbe up to km 624).
2009 will already see very large ships calling at the port: giant container ship "Marit Maersk" docked in Hamburg on its maiden voyage. At 367 metres she was the longest ship ever to berth in the Port of Hamburg. Two ships belonging to shipping company CMA/CGM, both 366 metres long, are also expected later this year.
Senator for Economics Axel Gedaschko: "The economic crisis will actually encourage the use of particularly large ships. This is already discernible today. On the main routes between Asia, Europe and America we are currently experiencing the decommissioning of "smaller" ships as a direct reaction to lower freight volumes. To the extent possible, freight is being transferred to the large, state-of-the-art ships. This is exactly the reason why rapid implementation of the planned adaptation of the Elbe fairway is all the more urgent. This is about preventing a crisis; about a national duty and about the sustainability of Germany's largest maritime port. We have to do whatever it takes."
The planning documents, based on which the nature and extent of the project are apparent, and the documentation regarding the environmental impact of the project were open for inspection between 21st March and 20th April 2007 and, following completion of some changes, again between 7th October and 6th November 2008. Within the scope of this procedure some 7,000 objections were recorded, which will be the subject of the hearings commencing today. In the run up to these hearings detailed discussions regarding the issue of the safety of the dykes have taken place between, on the one hand, the Federal Government and Hamburg and, on the other, the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony. In this regard solutions viable for all participants seem to have been identified. Parallel to the commencement of the hearings the eight associations responsible for dykes along the Elbe; Lower Saxony's Minister for the Environment Sander and the Federal Government plan to sign the so-called "Dyke Exchange". This envisages the Federal Government taking on responsibility for all maintenance - with a few exceptions - of the protective structures and non-fortified floodplain areas along the banks of the Lower Elbe in Lower Saxony and, in return, being freed from its duty to maintain the dykes along the River Oste. Nevertheless it remains clear that, for legal reasons, any final agreement by Lower Saxony can only be given following the announcement of planning approval.
Tomorrow's transport is being planned today: the current crisis does not represent the normal state of affairs. In recent years globalisation has resulted in the strong growth of maritime shipping traffic. This growth will continue in the long term, regardless of the current recession. Recessions do not alter the rise of industrial goods production or the growing automation of industrial production processes. They also do nothing to hinder globalisation. The port's extremely strong, promising market position as the hub between Asia and Europe is not in question.
Information box "Why adapt the Outer and Lower Elbe fairways?"
The fairway expansion decided in 1999 was based on container ships with a max. draught of 13.50 m and a tonnage of up to approx. 4,500 TEU. In line with this the Outer and Lower Elbe's fairway is currently designed to allow container ships with a max. draught of 12.50 m access to the Port of Hamburg at any time. Vessels with a draught of max. 13.50 m have a window of opportunity of around one hour which takes advantage of the high tide to depart the port. The late 1990's saw the beginning of a trend towards container ships with larger tonnages and draughts. In this regard ship dimensions of up to 10,000 TEU and max. draughts of 14.50 m have prevailed on the global transport market. In some cases even larger ships with draughts of around 15.0 m and tonnages of up to 13,000 TEU have entered service. A significant trend to a further increase in the size of container ships is not currently discernible. Against this background the expansion of the fairway now being planned is based on container ships with max. draughts of 14.50 m, since these ships today dominate global container transportation and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Press Office of the State Ministry of Economic and Labour Affairs
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