New fairway drafts offer shipping greater flexibility on Lower and Outer Elbe

28 Jan 2022 08:00 Economy

Release of the second stage came on 24 January 2022. The objective of providing better accessibility to the port of Hamburg regardless of the tide has now been achieved. Depending on the tide, even greater drafts are possible. In comparison to the situation before the fairway adjustment, inbound and outbound shipping now gains from a draft increase of between 1.00 and 1.90 metres. Irrespective of the tide, Megamax vessels with a width of up to 62.50 metres and a length of 400 metres can now move about the port with a draft of up to 13.10 metres. Prior to adjustment, the figure was no more than 11.40 metres. Depending on the tide, it is now 14.10 metres for ships departing the port. For ships entering the port, a favourable tide makes 15.40 metres feasible, compared to th previous 13.60 metres.

“We are delighted that following years of intensive planning, completion of the mega-project ‘fairway adjustment’ has been accomplished. Above all, we should like to express our thanks to our partners and customers, who during many personal discussions have again and again reiterated their faith in the Port of Hamburg. Statistics already show good market acceptance for the first release of the fairway adjustment. Last year 2,377 containerships called the Port of Hamburg between May and December. Of these, 666 had a design draft of over 13.80 metres. And 96 of them had a draft that would not have been acceptable prior to the release of the fairway adjustment. With the final release, we are anticipating further increases,” says Jens Meier, CEO of Hamburg Port Authority (HPA).

Completion of the work is also a milestone for shipping traffic in Hamburg for Michael Westhagemann, Hamburg’s Minister of Economics: “For Germany’s largest port, it means improved access conditions that will enable shipping companies to bring more cargo to Hamburg.” In ideal conditions, a vessel of the Megamax class can now transport around 2,450 additional TEU to and from Hamburg. Especially large bulk cargo and cruise ships will also benefit from the fairway adjustment.

Axel Mattern and Ingo Egloff, Joint CEOs of Port of Hamburg Marketing, welcome the now successfully accomplished adjustment of the Elbe fairway. “For shipping and our port customers from trade & industry, simplifications in the accessibility of Germany’s largest universal port also facilitate the advantage of routing more cargo via Hamburg. On land, environment-friendly rail is the main supplier of freight transport, linking inland market regions with the port swiftly and reliably. With high-performance routes, smart logistics solutions and growing use of low-emission energy sources and technology, we are on course for sustained growth,” says Axel Mattern. For his Executive Board colleague Ingo Egloff, it is important to add that in Germany alone, the Port of Hamburg guarantees around 607,000 jobs.

Professor Dr.-Ing. Hans-Heinrich Witte, President of the Federal Waterways and Shipping administration, underlines the advantages of the new fairway: “With the final release, shipping now has distinctly greater draft at its disposal. Apart from the navigational advantages, the greater depths provide both economic and ecological added value. Greater depth means improved utilization of vessels and leads to lower emissions per ton transported.”

Improved planning capacity
Extensive advance planning by the HPA's Nautical Control Centre together with the federal district control centres and in coordination with Hamburg Vessel Coordination Center (HVCC) ensures that potential conflict situations on the Elbe and in the Hamburg port area are identified and resolved at an early stage. The "just-in-time" arrival of ships also makes it possible to save large quantities of fuel and thus helps to reduce emissions. Together, the HPA's Nautical Control Centre, the HVCC and the federal government's district control centres will be able to make the traffic flow regulation from the North Sea to the berth even more flexible and thus further optimise it after the final fairway adjustment.

The existing passing box offers a further advantage for planning. Near Wedel, for example, a passing box has been built, extending for eight kilometres. This enables vessels with a combined width of less than 104 metres to pass each other. In addition, the fairway between Wedel and the Stör estuary has been widened from 300 to 320 metres. Here ships with a combined width of less than 92 metres can pass each other. In practice, it emerged that this section, especially, simplifies the work for all.

Advantages for terminal operators
The fairway adjustment also ensures improved planning capacity at terminals. The departure times have been recalculated for all vessels. “Successful widening and deepening of the Elbe fairway is an essential measure for maintaining the Port of Hamburg’s competitiveness. In combination with the investments already made by Hamburger Hafen and Logistik AG (HHLA) for mega gantry cranes and automated storage technology, the adjustment now implemented will enable us to swiftly and reliably clear containerships of ever-growing size. For both HHLA and our customers, this will ensure the highest possible planning capacity for control of approaches,” says Angela Titzrath, CEO of HHLA.

Positive experience gathered during first stage
In both the area delegated and the one for which central government is responsible, dredging work for the fairway, i.e., deepening section by section and widening of some stretches, was completed in spring, 2021. Based on the procedure developed for the previous fairway adjustment in 1999, HPA’s harbourmaster’s office and the federal nautical agencies agreed that draft improvement should be tackled in two stages. Two reasons prompted HPA and the WSV - Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration to adopt this procedure. On the one hand, after completion of the dredging work, sustained changes in the underwater banks could occur, even impinging on the fairway. On the other, this also offered the opportunity for all concerned to gain experience with new procedures.

New fairway drafts offer shipping greater flexibility on Lower and Outer Elbe

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      Ralf Johanning

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