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Hamburg Completes Elbe Expansion to Accommodate Larger Ships 

Hamburg improves port access along river from North Sea
Elbe has been expanded to permits larger ships and passing on the river (HHM)

Published Jan 28, 2022 8:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Hamburg has completed and made available to ships an expansion of the waterway along the Elbe River connecting Hamburg to the North Sea at Cuxhaven. Port officials are calling the project a major enhancement to the port’s capabilities, permitting it to handle larger vessels as well improve the management of ships along the river and enhance safety during the passage between the sea and the port.

The dredging and widening of the river were undertaken in phases with the second stage of the expansion project being released this week for the movement of ships. The dredging and widening of the river were completed in the spring of 2021. The project added between three and six feet of additional draft capacity for ships both inbound and outbound regardless of the tide on the river.

“We are delighted that following years of intensive planning, completion of the mega-project ‘fairway adjustment’ has been accomplished,” said Jens Meier, CEO of Hamburg Port Authority. They highlighted that before the project, the maximum draft was 37 feet and now with a favorable tide they can handle vessels up to 50.5 feet.

For containerships calling at the Port of Hamburg, they will now be able to handle vessels with approximately a 44-foot draft regardless of the tide conditions. The widening of the river also means that they can now accommodate a vessel with maximum dimensions of 1,312 feet in length and a 205-foot beam.

Citing data from May to December 2021, they reported that 2,377 containerships called at the Port of Hamburg. A total of 666 had a design draft of greater than 45 feet and 96 of them had a draft that could not be accommodated without the deepening of the river.

“For Germany’s largest port, it means improved access conditions that will enable shipping companies to bring more cargo to Hamburg,” said Michael Westhagemann, Hamburg’s Minister of Economics. He expects that large containerships will be able to transport approximately 1,800 additional TEU to and from Hamburg. He also noted that large bulk carriers and cruise ships would also benefit from the improvements along the river.

In addition to the deepening of the river to accommodate greater drafts, sections of the river were also widened to provide greater navigational advantages. For example, one of the passing zones on the river was extended by nearly five miles. Places along the river can now accommodate two vessels passing with a total width of up to 341 feet. 

They predicted that the new capabilities would make it possible to improve the utilization of the port while also optimizing Elbe passage planning for vessels.