Elbe dredging a necessity, says Hamburg official

Dredging of the river Elbe must happen if the port of Hamburg is not to be overtaken by rival ports on the North Sea coast, said Angela Titzrath, Chairwoman of Hamburger Hafen und Logistik (HHLA). She was responding to last Friday’s court ruling by the German Federal Administrative Court that the plan needed revising because of environmental concerns.

It ruled that, although parts of the planning process were incorrectly handled and broke planning law, this should not in principle stop Hamburg getting consent to dredge the river.

“Following the lengthy proceedings and in light of the stark competition between the major European ports, I would have hoped for a ruling that did not result in a further delay to the dredging of the river Elbe,” Titzrath said, adding that “we expect those involved in the proceedings to eliminate the existing uncertainties as quickly as possible. The dredging of the navigation channel must take place quickly to ensure that the Port of Hamburg remains competitive”.

The plan would see about 130km of the river being dredged, enabling boxships with a 14.5-meter draught to reach the port at high and low tides, against 13.5 meters at present. Environmental groups say that the project would have a negative impact on plant species and ecology of the water.

Ingo Egloff, joint CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing, said: “We regret the repeated time delay in implementing the measure. What is important is that for shipping on the Elbe and operations in the Port of Hamburg nothing will change. Up to now, we have been able to handle the largest containerships; this will be so in the future too. There will be no deterioration.”

The Hamburg city government said it was pleased the court had in principle accepted that dredging can take place. “We have at least legal security,” said Hamburg economy minister Frank Horch. The planning application must be amended but “there is no doubt” that the dredging will take place, he said in a statement.