Dismissed lawsuits bring Hamburg deepening closer

Port of Hamburg Deepening the Elbe will allow containerships to more easily access the Port of Hamburg

A court has dismissed lawsuits seeking to stop a project to deepen the River Elbe to improve large vessel port access.

The lawsuits, brought by the cities of Cuxhaven and Otterndorf and coastal fishermen, claimed the plan to deepen the Lower and Outer Elbe to 15.6m, including at the Port of Hamburg to enable containerships access, threatened public facilities and land, and fishing grounds.

The Port of Hamburg stated that the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig found: “In weighing up the concerns affected, the planning authorities accorded priority to the public interest in maintaining and/or improving the Elbe’s functionality as a federal waterway for traffic over the conflicting interests of the objectors.”

Primary traffic function

Reviewing the lawsuits filed in response to February’s decision to allow work to go ahead, the court found that the impact on already strained public facilities was not great enough to halt the project. The Elbe’s overriding function as a traffic artery must be accepted by fisherman who consider themselves put at a disadvantage, the port said the court decided.

It was confirmed that should the expansion project put livelihoods at risk, the planning decisions provide for compensation.

Frank Horch, Hamburg’s Minister of Economics, Transport & Innovation, commented that the “decision by the Federal Administrative Court has brought us a step nearer implementation of the adjustment of the fairway on the Lower & Outer Elbe.

“As matters stand at present, we can assume that an application for planning completion proceedings can be lodged with the planning authorities in January 2018, enabling the corresponding planning completion to be started.”

Additional cases

On 13 December the Federal Administrative Court will be considering the remaining cases brought by four private individuals and water/soil associations.

The river falls into two sections – the Lower Elbe for the stretch of around 145 kilometres from the estuary to the Port of Hamburg, and the Upper Elbe for the upriver section further inland.

Ships with a maximum draft of 12.80m can arrive and leave the 290-berth Port of Hamburg irrespective of tide at any time. Using the tidal surge for covering the stretch of river from North Sea as far as Hamburg, drafts of up to 15.10 metres are possible. Making allowance for the tide, in the other direction drafts of up to 13.80 metres are feasible.

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