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Status: 07/23/2019 2:20 p.m. | archive
by Marc-Oliver Rehrmann, NDR.de
The Elbe is to become deeper so that in the future container giants like the 400-meter-long "Antoine de Saint Exupéry" can head for the Port of Hamburg with more cargo than before.

The Elbe is one of the most important waterways in Germany. The 130-kilometer stretch between the North Sea and Hamburg is particularly important for worldwide shipping. The aim of the fairway expansion, which has been planned since 2002 and finally started in July 2019, is to make the port of Hamburg easier to reach for the new generation of container ships. Giant ships with space for more than 20,000 containers such as the container freighter "CMA CGM Antoine de Saint Exupéry" with a maximum draft of 16 meters can call at the port today - but not fully loaded and only in a tight time window. Shipowners and terminal operators therefore fear location disadvantages if the widening and deepening of the fairway does not take place soon.

With or without a tidal wave

After the dredging work, ships with an actual draft of 13.50 meters should be able to navigate the Lower Elbe at any time. So far, the maximum draft for a tide-independent voyage from Hamburg to Cuxhaven has been 12.50 meters.

A special area is the tide-dependent journey: If ships use the tidal wave to reach or leave the port of Hamburg, they are allowed to have higher drafts. Ships that come in from the North Sea with the tidal wave are allowed to have a draft of up to 15.60 meters (now: 14.80 meters) after the deepening of the Elbe. On the other hand, other requirements apply when sailing, because the ships then approach against the tidal wave. The deepening of the Elbe should lead to ships with a draft of up to 14.50 meters (now: 13.50 meters) being allowed to sail depending on the tide.

According to the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA), around every sixth voyage of a seagoing vessel is tide-dependent.

The crux with the drafts

The drafts of container ships are sometimes given for salt water, sometimes for fresh water. As a rule of thumb, 30 centimeters must be added to the salt water draft of a ship in fresh water. The drafts mentioned in the article all refer to salt water. This is so common internationally.

Where is dredging going on?

Not the entire Elbe, not even the entire fairway, but only the fairway will be adapted for shipping traffic. And the fairway is not dredged along the entire length between Hamburg and Cuxhaven: According to the federal government, the depth of the fairway is to be changed to 60 percent of the route. The fairway is deepened by a maximum of 2.42 meters, at other points only by 1.50 meters or less. At the deepest point between Otterndorf and Lühe, the fairway after the deepening of the Elbe will be 19.00 meters deep, in Hamburg-Altenwerder 17.40 meters. It is only possible to continue dredging above the motorway Elbe tunnel in Hamburg. There it remains at a river depth of 16.70 meters below sea level.

The fairway of the Lower Elbe

In the Elbe, the fairway only makes up a small part of the entire width of the river. At Bützfleth in the Stade district, this is around 24 percent, and at Kugelbake in Cuxhaven around 2.5 percent of the width of the river.

The fairway should also be wider

In addition, the fairway between the Stör curve at Glückstadt and Hamburg is to be widened by 20 meters. This means that two ships, each 46 meters wide, can meet here safely and easily in the future. So far, the fairway in this area is 300 meters wide, or only 250 meters just before Hamburg. In addition, an eight kilometer long "encounter box" with a width of 385 meters is planned. Large container and bulk carriers should be able to pass each other in this area.

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NDR 90.3 | NDR 90.3 Current | 07/23/2019 | 14:00 clock