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  • 2022 January 28 16:51

    New fairway drafts offer shipping greater flexibility on Lower and Outer Elbe

    Release of the second stage came on 24 January 2022, according to the Port of Hamburg's release. This represented achievement of the project target of enabling containerships with a draft of up to 13.50 metres to reach the Port of Hamburg irrespective of the tide.

    Depending on the tide, even greater drafts are possible. In comparison to the situation before the fairway adjustment, inbound and outbound shipping now gains from a draft increase of between 1.00 and 1.90 metres. Irrespective of the tide, Megamax vessels with a width of up to 62.50 metres and a length of 400 metres can now move about the port with a draft of up to 13.10 metres. Prior to adjustment, the figure was no more than 11.40 metres. A favourable tide makes 15.40 metres feasible, compared to the previous 13.60 metres.

    Axel Mattern and Ingo Egloff, Joint CEOs of Port of Hamburg Marketing, welcome the now successfully accomplished adjustment of the Elbe fairway. “For shipping and our port customers from trade & industry, simplifications in the accessibility of Germany’s largest universal port also facilitate the advantage of routing more cargo via Hamburg. On land, environment-friendly rail is the main supplier of freight transport, linking inland market regions with the port swiftly and reliably. With high-performance routes, smart logistics solutions and growing use of low-emission energy sources and technology, we are on course for sustained growth,” says Axel Mattern. For his Executive Board colleague Ingo Egloff, it is important to add that in Germany alone, the Port of Hamburg guarantees around 607,000 jobs.

    In addition, improved planning capacity also benefits the environment. HVCC - Hamburg Vessel Coordination Center can now further optimize its Elbe passage planning. This will lead to enhanced safety, on the one hand, further defusing potential conflicts on the Elbe and in the port area. On the other, it will also benefit the environment. Just-in-time arrival during the approach enables many vessels to reduce speed and bunker less fuel, causing lower pollutant emissions.

    The existing passing box offers a further advantage for planning. Near Wedel, for example, a passing box has been built, extending for eight kilometres. This enables vessels with a combined width of less than 104 metres to pass each other. In addition, the fairway between Wedel and the Stör estuary has been widened from 300 to 320 metres. Here ships with a combined width of less than 92 metres can pass each other. In practice, it emerged that this section, especially, simplifies the work for all.

    The fairway adjustment also ensures improved planning capacity at terminals. So vessels longer than 360 metres can be given longer ex-berth ‘sailing windows’. “Successful widening and deepening of the Elbe fairway is an essential measure for maintaining the Port of Hamburg’s competitiveness. In combination with the investments already made by Hamburger Hafen and Logistik AG (HHLA) for mega gantry cranes and automated storage technology, the adjustment now implemented will enable us to swiftly and reliably clear containerships of ever-growing size. For both HHLA and our customers, this will ensure the highest possible planning capacity for control of approaches,” says Angela Titzrath, CEO of HHLA.

    In both the area delegated and the one for which central government is responsible, dredging work for the fairway, i.e., deepening section by section and widening of some stretches, was completed in spring, 2021. Based on the procedure developed for the previous fairway adjustment in 1999, HPA’s harbourmaster’s office and the federal nautical agencies agreed that draft improvement should be tackled in two stages. Two reasons prompted HPA and the WSV - Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration to adopt this procedure. On the one hand, immediately after completion of the dredging work, sustained changes in the underwater banks could occur, even impinging on the fairway. On the other, this also offered the opportunity for all concerned to gain experience with new procedures.

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