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Hamburg Can Welcome Giant Ships after Widening of Elbe ‘Passing Box’

Mega-ships with a combined width of up to 98 meters can now pass each other in a widened section of the Elbe known as the ‘passing box’.

The five-kilometer stretch under federal jurisdiction now has a width of 385 meters, the Port of Hamburg said.

Similarly, the fairway along the 36-kilometer stretch between Wedel and the mouth of the Stör has been widened from 300 to 320 meters. From January 28, ships with a combined width of 92 meters may pass or overtake each other in this area.

Image Courtesy: Port of Hamburg

“With the initial fairway widenings of the Elbe, meanwhile completed, we are on a good course, immediately improving the conditions for calls by mega-ships,” Axel Mattern, Joint CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing, commented.

“For shipping and our port customers, this is really gratifying news for the start of the year.”

The holding area at Brunsbüttel has also been completed. The area has been available as anchorage since the end of last year– when allocated by the traffic control center. Specifically, this offers ships dependent on the tide and unable to make the tide ‘window’ for currently unforeseeable reasons the opportunity of waiting during the new low water phase. The holding area forms an essential element of the safety concept.

“We started dredging operations on the Lower and Outer Elbe at the end of July. In our section, the work on widening has now been completed. As soon as the work in the up-river section of the passing stretch through Hamburg has been completed, the combined width of ships passing can be raised,” Andreas Scheuer, German Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, said.

“For shipping, this boosts flexibility, efficiency, capacity and safety. Because more and also larger vessels can call and depart simultaneously, the number of mega-containerships can then be more than doubled to 2,800 containerships per year.”

“With these widenings, shipping on the Elbe will for the first time profit from the fairway adjustment. That is good for waterway capacity, traffic flow and safety,” Hans-Heinrich Witte, President of the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV) pointed out.

Currently, work is in progress on deepening the entire stretch. Both ships dependent on the tide, and those that are not, will gain from one extra meter of loaded draft. The works are scheduled to be completed next year.


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