Inland Waterways

Inland Waterways

Inland waterway vessels are seen as the most ecological mode of transport. No other mode of transport is in a position to achieve the same transport-performance in such an environmentally-friendly way. The Port of Hamburg is the third largest inland port in Germany. In 2021 approximately 11,000 inland waterway vessels tied up at the some 100 berths especially designated for them and transported around 7 million tons of cargo. Cargo leaves Hamburg daily on the River Elbe and the canals into the hinterland. There are regular services on the middle and upper Elbe in the direction of Magdeburg, Aken, Torgau, Riesa, Dresden and even to the Czech Republic to Děčin, Ústí nad Labem and Lovosice. Along the Lower Elbe Brunsbüttel, Cuxhaven and Glückstadt, among others can be served. In the Elbe Lateral Canal the link to the Mittellandkanal is also the connection to Braunschweig, Fallersleben, Haldensleben, Hanover and Minden as well as to the Ruhr region and the inland ports of the Rhein, Main, Mosel and Neckar. Cargo also finds it way to Berlin via the inland waterways.

New Concepts for Inland Waterway Shipping in Hamburg

Intelligent Transport System (ITS) for inland waterway shipping

HPA is currently working on a scheme for developing an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) strategy for inland waterway shipping in Hamburg. This aims to optimize data interchange for inland waterway vessel services. Traffic data for all the players in the transport chain could in future flow into the system: Schedule and cargo data for inland waterway craft, terminal/lock/bridge availability, Elbe water levels and other current traffic data from the Harbourmaster’s Office and the Nautical Centre. “Our aim is to optimize availability of data for inland waterway shipping in the Port of Hamburg, to enhance the reliability and calculability of transport processes, and to boost the utilization and efficiency of transport infrastructure,” explains Saskia Zippel, responsible at HPA for its Inland Waterway Shipping Strategy. In addition, the ITS will reduce costs for users and improve traffic safety for inland waterway vessels. Data interchange between all players in the transport chain would be paperless, simplified and accelerated. Among other advantages, this will enable inland waterway skippers and terminals to react more flexibly to non-scheduled delays or changes. Connecting this system to the smartPORT logistics (SPL) project will make the entire transport chain more transparent and efficient, with inland waterway shipping incorporated too. A first pilot project to detect berth occupancy and inland waterway vessel arrivals in the Port of Hamburg will commence next year.

Inland Waterways
Container barge in the Port of Hamburg

Digital reporting system for inland waterway vessels

Since April, Inland waterway craft can use digital forms to report arrival and departure in the Port of Hamburg. Something that has been standard for years in oceangoing shipping, for rail and truckers, has long since been a Cinderella for inland shipping. Until now handwritten reports completed by its skippers have reached the HPA by fax. The new procedure simplifies and improves the reporting process. In addition, master data are saved for subsequent calls.

Empty container logistics and port tours

In 2014 around 72,000 TEU were shifted along the waterways between container terminals in this environmentally friendly way. Tremendous potential exists for boosting this proportion. “Around 90 percent of tours in the Port of Hamburg are still being handled by truck. That causes bottlenecks, especially on the Köhlbrand and Kattwyk bridges,” explains Axel Mattern, CEO of Hafen Hamburg Marketing. To better connect the waterside of depots for empty containers for inland waterway craft, HPA and the container depots are investing in expanding infrastructure and superstructure. Neuhöfer Canal, for example, is being upgraded to permit handling irrespective of the tide, while moorings are planned for inland waterway craft, and new cranes for loading and discharging them are being taken into service.

Prioritizing the Elbe in Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan

The seaport-hinterland traffic so essential for the Port of Hamburg’s added value cannot be taken for granted. In many regions of its hinterland, the Port of Hamburg faces tough competition from other ports in the North range. The modernization and expansion of infrastructure so essential for seaport-hinterland transport must be made the top priority in the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan. From Hamburg as far as the Czech Republic, the federal states are calling for a mean navigation channel depth of at least 1.60 metres on a minimum of 345 days in the year. In eight out of nine sections of the Central and Lower Elbe, average depth at low water does not even reach the depth of 1.60 metres promised by Federal government, being between 1.18 and 1.38 metres. “That is by no means sufficient for running regular and above all, viable inland waterway services,” is Egloff’s criticism. He estimates that with the reliable water depths called for, inland waterway shipping could more than double its function as an environmentally friendly carrier for the Port of Hamburg’s seaport-hinterland traffic.

Digital reporting system for inland waterway vessels

Since April, Inland waterway craft can use digital forms to report arrival and departure in the Port of Hamburg. Something that has been standard for years in oceangoing shipping, for rail and truckers, has long since been a Cinderella for inland shipping. Until now handwritten reports completed by its skippers have reached the HPA by fax. The new procedure simplifies and improves the reporting process. In addition, master data are saved for subsequent calls.

Empty container logistics and port tours

In 2014 around 72,000 TEU were shifted along the waterways between container terminals in this environmentally friendly way. Tremendous potential exists for boosting this proportion. “Around 90 percent of tours in the Port of Hamburg are still being handled by truck. That causes bottlenecks, especially on the Köhlbrand and Kattwyk bridges,” explains Axel Mattern, CEO of Hafen Hamburg Marketing. To better connect the waterside of depots for empty containers for inland waterway craft, HPA and the container depots are investing in expanding infrastructure and superstructure. Neuhöfer Canal, for example, is being upgraded to permit handling irrespective of the tide, while moorings are planned for inland waterway craft, and new cranes for loading and discharging them are being taken into service.

Prioritizing the Elbe in Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan

The seaport-hinterland traffic so essential for the Port of Hamburg’s added value cannot be taken for granted. In many regions of its hinterland, the Port of Hamburg faces tough competition from other ports in the North range. The modernization and expansion of infrastructure so essential for seaport-hinterland transport must be made the top priority in the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan. From Hamburg as far as the Czech Republic, the federal states are calling for a mean navigation channel depth of at least 1.60 metres on a minimum of 345 days in the year. In eight out of nine sections of the Central and Lower Elbe, average depth at low water does not even reach the depth of 1.60 metres promised by Federal government, being between 1.18 and 1.38 metres. “That is by no means sufficient for running regular and above all, viable inland waterway services,” is Egloff’s criticism. He estimates that with the reliable water depths called for, inland waterway shipping could more than double its function as an environmentally friendly carrier for the Port of Hamburg’s seaport-hinterland traffic.

Overview of all berths for inland waterway craft in the Port of Hamburg

The Port of Hamburg provides 106 public berths for inland waterway craft. A map just published by Hamburg Port Authority shows where to find them: www.hamburg-port-authority.de. This also indicates the main features of berth equipment and is continually being extended and updated.

Inland Waterways

Inland ports in the Elbe river area

Inland Waterways

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