Troubled German lock to close again

The Kaiserschleuse showing a lock gate where problems have led to the latest rremedial work The Kaiserschleuse showing a lock gate where problems have led to the latest rremedial work
Industry Database

Two years after unexpected repairs closed it down for more than a twelve month period, the €233 million Kaiserschleuse Lock in Bremerhaven, built just six years ago, is to close again for repairs costing €24.5 million.

Following discussions between bremenports, which operates the lock, and the firms responsible for building and repairing it, a spokesman for bremenports told Maritime Journal the work would start in 2018. However “the exact date has not yet been decided”, he added.

The planning and carrying out of the latest repairs will cost some 24.5 million of which €2 million will be paid out by bremenports for improvements to the Kaiserschleuse which would have become necessary in any case with time.

The federal state of Bremen will pay one third of the remaining €22.5 million while the other two thirds will be paid by the Kaiserschleuse construction consortium, grouping Hochtief Infrastructure, August Prien and Strabag. However, “the division of tasks still has to be decided”, bremenports told this correspondent.

Bremenports chief Robert Howe was quoted earlier this year as saying it was not known just how long the latest repairs would take or how long the busy lock, one of two important ship access locks linking the River Weser and port facilities, would be out of operation. Some reports have said however that the work is expected to last into 2019.

The 305m long and 55m wide Kaiserschleuse was inaugurated as recently as 2011. It took four years to build and replaced a 215m long lock constructed nearly 130 years ago and which was once the biggest lock in the world. The new facility was designed to improve access to Bremerhaven’s booming car terminals which are used by giant car carriers up to 270m long. The old lock could only handle ships of maximum 185m length and 28m width.

Within just three years of opening the new Kaiserschleuse had to close down in October 2014 after the discovery of extensive lock gate damage. It stayed closed until mid 2015 during which time ships used the port’s other main lock, the 375m long Nordschleuse. But just as the Kaiserschleuse was due to open again after completion of those repairs, further lock gate damage was discovered and the facility was shut for a second time and until the end of 2015.

Bremenports told this correspondent the 2014-2015 repairs, costing €14 million, had in fact been “provisional and designed to make the lock available to shipping again as quickly as possible” but had not been “finalised”. The works now scheduled for next year, he added, were “the final refurbishment” and would be “so adapted as to guarantee that the Kaiserschleuse will meet the demands of the next 100 years”.

By Tom Todd

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