Major contracts as Elbe work finally begins

Passing on the busy Elbe to be eased
Passing on the busy Elbe to be eased
Brokdorf underwater silt deposit site on the Elbe (Photo WSV)
Brokdorf underwater silt deposit site on the Elbe (Photo WSV)
Industry Database

Urgently-needed multi-million Euro deepening of Germany’s Elbe River is finally underway after nearly two decades of delays and controversy, writes Tom Todd.

The project covers deepening and widening along about 130 kms of the Lower and Outer Elbe between Hamburg and the North Sea. It got the go-ahead in April from the German Waterways and Shipping Authority (WSV) when the main dredging contract worth €238 million was announced.  Work on associated projects began earlier this year.

Now expected to be completed in 2022 at a cost in excess of €800 million, the work will mean that ships drawing 13.5m (previously 12.5m) will have tide-independent access to Hamburg, where the Hamburg Port Authority is deepening its fairway stretch to some 17.3m. The ever -increasing numbers of mega boxships drawing 14.5m will be able to reach and leave Hamburg at full tide and also find it easier to pass one another.

It is estimated the changes could mean three million more teus a year for Hamburg - Germany’s biggest and Europe’s third largest universal seaport. They have been a long time coming.

Hamburg Senate sought approval in 2000 for fairway deepening, warning that without it shipping would suffer. The plans were blocked for years by environmentalist and other concerns.

Now, with handling continuing to decline and the port losing ground to rivals Rotterdam and Antwerp, Hamburg is pinning its hopes on the project.

The go-ahead for the work follows a ruling by the Leipzig Supreme Court that deepening could proceed in principle, but only after revisions and improvements in the plans proposed by Hamburg. The city moved quickly to meet those conditions. Further last-minute objections were also resolved opening the way for the WSV dredging contract in April.

It was awarded to a consortium comprising Dredging International and Nordsee Nassbagger und Tiefbau. Both are part of Belgium-based Dredging, Environmental and Marine Engineering NV (DEME).

It covers the dredging of an estimated 32 million m3 along the Elbe from Hamburg to the sea. That is now getting underway with river widening to 320m at Wedel near Hamburg and with the creation of a 7kms x 385m wide passing ‘box’ between Wedel and Wittenbergen.

Hamburg Economics Senator Michael Westhagemann said the ‘box’ will be finished this year. Elbe deepening would follow in 2020 and remaining works would be finished off in 2022, he said.

The DEME contract follows related anticipatory projects awarded earlier this year which cover subsidiary Elbe river work.

A contract worth €9.5 million was awarded to Van den Herik’s German subsidiary by WSV authorities in Cuxhaven. It covers the creation of a central underwater embankment in the Medemrinne on both sides of which future dredged material will be dumped in an underwater silt deposit site

The WSV in Cuxhaven also awarded a contract worth about €5 million to Heuvelmann Ibis to create a 1.7kms long underwater embankment up to 3.6m high around a 24 hectare silt deposit area near Brokdorf. It will be one of many such Elbe sites, some much bigger, planned to take sand and silt from dredged and deepened areas. Brokdorf will take some 670,000 m3.

Another giant 6.7km underwater deposit site is being created at Neufelder Strand in the Elbe Estuary for 9.5 million m3. It is being built by Jan de Nul and is costing €25 million.

The WSV said such underwater  areas are available for well over 20 million m3 of dredged material. It said they are designed to be an integral part of the river control process and to help minimise the effects which fairway changes might have on water levels and river currents.

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