Work is well under way on a €9.5 million dedicated heavy lift RoRo facility in Cuxhaven. It is the latest phase in the expansion of the German Elbe port’s Offshore Industry Centre (Deutsches Offshore-Industrie-Zentrum Cuxhaven), under development since 2008.

The RoRo facility at Berth 9.3, especially designed to handle heavy offshore components, lies directly on the River Elbe in the port, just downstream from Hamburg. It is adjacent to Cuxhaven’s Berths 8 and 9 - themselves developed several years ago as part of a €200 million Offshore Centre investment.

Berth 9.3 is scheduled for completion in summer next year. Port owner and operator Niedersachsen Ports (NPorts) and the state of Lower Saxony’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Labour and Transport Olaf Lies inaugurated the pile driving reinforcement work on the site in late June.

The project covers the creation of a 115m long and 55m wide fixed ramp for Roll-on/Roll-off traffic which will give Cuxhaven the capability to handle heavy lift consignments of more than 1,000 tons. NPorts spokeswoman Dörte Schmitz told Maritime Journal the existing berth was being reinforced to allow the handling of heavy project cargo such as new-generation 10MW offshore wind farm turbine nacelles. She explained that they will move directly onto RoRo ships via the giant ramp now being created. Several hundred units, which can weigh as much as 350 tons apiece, are expected to move across the completed ramp each year.

That’s because one main reason for the development of Berth 9.3 at this juncture is the planned establishment in Cuxhaven of a new wind turbine plant for German electro giant Siemens. It will begin production next year and create more than 1,000 jobs. When that happens, the giant wind turbine motors Siemens builds will be shipped via the new ramp at Berth 9.3.

Dörte Schmitz told this correspondent in late August “everything is going according to schedule”. She added that about 170 of a planned total 368 concrete foundation piles had been rammed as of that time. The piles are each of 61cms diameter and are being sunk up to 30m deep by the construction consortium responsible for the project - the ARGE Umbau Liegeplatz 9.3.

That consortium, which won an EU-wide invitation to tender for the work earlier in 2016, is made up of Bilfinger Marine & Offshore Systems in Hamburg und Kurt Fredrich Spezialtiefbau in Bremerhaven. Consulting engineers for the project are Büro KSF in Bremerhaven while the geological and geotechnical consultants are Büro Steinfeld & Partners in Hamburg.

All the other work connected with the project is being handled by the state-owned NPorts itself – no slouch when it comes to such projects. Cuxhaven is just one of 15 ports owned and operated by the Oldenburg-based NPorts on the German North Sea coast. Five are seaports, seven are island supply ports and the other three are regional port facilities.

According to the official tender invitation and NPorts information, the scope of works on Berth 9.3 includes the delivery and sinking of 27 oblique HP 400 x 140 piles with lengths up to 40m for the quayside structure. It also covers the supply and delivery of about 460 auger ram piles (with a total length of around 12,400m, notes NPorts) and the placement of eight micro-piles to GeWiPlus standard or comparable. Some 750 m3 of reinforced concrete were also being laid along with about 76,400 m3 of reinforced concrete as a navigable quayside deck area and about 3,100 m3 of Stelcon plates.

Lower Saxony Minister for Economics, Labour and Transport Minister Olaf Lies said when work started on Berth 9.3: “with our port policies, the investments that have already been made and the current direction of energy policy towards offshore wind, we are on the right track. With the establishment of Siemens and in future other businesses in the component supply sector, we will remain on course and create jobs for the entire region. The construction of Berth 9.3 is a further visible sign of the rapid development of Cuxhaven’s Offshore Industry Centre”, he declared.

Lies’s mention of investments already made in offshore in Cuxhaven refers to the development since 2008 of an offshore industry base on the Elbe River which now boasts combined quayside and pier space over more than 2,000m for ships drawing maximum 15m. The development of the adjacent Berths 8 and 9 alone has added a total quayside length of 1,340m on a berth depth of up to 11.6m.

Using a range of handling methods, the port of Cuxhaven can now handle all the freight that the offshore wind industry needs. Extensive operational areas covering about 20 hectares also now offer storage capacity sufficient for several wind farm projects at the same time while piers and wharfs (soon to include the new Berth 9.3 facility) are designed for heavy lift cargo and are interconnected.

In another comment on the importance of the new berth and on Siemens Holger Banik, Managing Director of Niedersachsen Ports said “we are creating a better infrastructure for local businesses”. He added that “as a logistics hub, Cuxhaven will, thanks to this project, not just be stronger in terms of performance, but will also be more attractive to port customers”.

Banik is also MD of the Jade Weser Port (JWP) in Wilhelmshaven. It was opened in 2012 and after a slow start is now attracting business. Cuxhaven lost out to JWP as the site of the country’s first deep-water container terminal but it has not dragged its heels since then. It has moved fast since then to develop multi-purpose handling clout centred on RoRo and offshore. The decision by Siemens to site its turbine manufacturing facility there is the latest feather in the enterprising port’s cap.

By Tom Todd