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Two-way navigation the length of the Elbe fairway

The Port of Hamburg reports that a crucial "pinchpoint" along the Elbe fairway will be widened in 2019, with completion scheduled for the end of the year

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Two-way navigation the length of the Elbe fairway

The project is part of the fairway adjustment of the Lower and Outer Elbe, which finally got the go-ahead less than two months ago and is due for completion in the summer of 2021. With an extra 1m controlling depth, it is estimated that large containerships will be able to arrive at and leave the port with an extra 1,300 TEU on board.


Meanwhile, pending completion of the whole project in 2021, as part of it the fairway between Störbogen and Wedel will be widened by 20m to 385m next year. A "passing box" will then be created on the 7 kms long stretch between Wedel and Wittenbergen.


This will bring to an end the ‘one-way traffic’ for ships with a combined width of more than 90m. The arithmetic, says Hamburg Port Authority (HPA), suggests that 2,800 ultra-large ships could then reach the port - more than twice as many as today.

To be prepared for further developments in ship sizes, HPA and the pilots are working together with shipping companies on simulation studies, for example to research the manoeuvring capacities for 23,000 TEU containerships. In the course of these studies, calls by these ships in the port will be re-created in the simulator.

Since 2015, HVCC (Hamburg Vessel Coordination Center), has worked to optimise passage for vessels defined as "extraordinarily large ships" (AGF in German) - containerships, bulk carriers and cruise ships.


AGFs are defined by HPA as vessels that are more than 300m long and 45m wide. The number of calls by AGFs has risen steadily from 600 in 2008 to 1000 this year, despite the numerous restrictions along the 120-kms stretch of the River Elbe between the estuary and the port boundary, which must be exactly observed.


Set up by Eurogate and HHLA, HVCC undertakes not only the operational coordination of arrival and departure planning for mega-ships, but also - as the Feeder Logistics Centre (FLZ) - rotation planning, arrival control and stowage planning for feederships and inland waterway craft in the Port of Hamburg.


In 2017, HVCC served more than 3,000 vessels calling or leaving Hamburg.


ADDENDUM, 19th December. Royal Boskalis Westminster NV has emerged as the lowest bidder for the €200M project to deepen the Elbe fairway. The project is being managed by WSA (Wasserstrassen- und Shiffahrtsamt) Cuxhaven branch and it transpires that Boskalis submitted the lowest price. WSA Cuxhaven will verify the commercial and technical aspects of the tender in the coming weeks and is expected to award the contract of around €200M in the second half of January 2019. The dredging activities are due to commence in February 2019.

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