Delays and costs hit German lock completion

Complex Kiel Canal Fifth Lock work in Brunsbuttel

Reports from Germany say the planned new fifth lock in Brunsbüttel on the Kiel Canal will be completed years later than scheduled and that the facility will cost millions of Euros more than currently planned, writes Tom Todd.

The predictions come in a report to Parliament’s Budget Committee from the German Transport Ministry. The report says the fifth lock in Brunsbuettel, at the Elbe end of the waterway, will not now open to traffic until at least 2024 and will cost a total €800 million.

That’s four years later than currently planned and €260 million more than the €540 million cost tipped when construction started on the new lock in 2015. Originally, the cost of the fifth lock was put at €270 million.

The latest reported cost increases and delays are being blamed on unexpectedly challenging construction works and on legal disputes involving government and builders.

The problems have centred on fears that ramming and anchoring of the new lock chamber close to existing old locks in Brunsbüttel might further damage walls and chambers soles. Another problem is the need for the expensive and time-consuming clearance of wartime munitions in an area targeted by Allied bombers in WW2.

The Government has not commented publicly on its latest report - published in the German media. However the German Waterways and Shipping authority (WSD) also responsible for the Kiel Canal, confirmed to Maritime Journal that construction delays and cost increases had occurred and were being studied by Parliament’s Budget Committee.

A transport spokesman for Germany’s leading political parties meanwhile criticised what some termed “unacceptable” developments and Berlin “mismanagement”.

Brunsbüttel already has two big locks and two small ones. The new lock facility, being built between them, will have an effective length of 330m - 20m more than the two big locks - and 42m wide. The two small locks are 125m long and 22m wide.

The new lock is designed to ease congestion on the 98 kms  Kiel Canal from Brunsbüttel to Kiel. In recent years the canal, which is well over 100 years old and the busiest man-made waterway in the world, has had to partially close on several occasions for repairs to ageing lock structures or because of accidents. More tha n 30,000 ships transit it every year.

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