Deepening of the Elbe channel “to be reconsidered”

News – September 9, 2008

Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) and Wasser- und Schifffahrtsamt Hamburg (WSD) [the Hamburg Water and Navigation Office], the two project developers involved, have applied to the planning authorities for a reconsideration of their revised plans for the deepening of the Elbe channel.

The modified documents will be available for public inspection in districts bordering both sides of the Elbe from 7 October to 6 November 2008.

Objections and position statements in relation to the proposals can be submitted up to 20 November 2008.

This marks the beginning of the next important phase of the proceedings.

The aim of the proposed deepening of the fairway of the Lower and Outer Elbe is to allow container ships with a maximum draught of up to 14.5m unhindered access to and from the Port of Hamburg.

Planning permission was applied for as long ago as March of last year, and attracted a great deal of attention – not least because of the many objections raised.

The Federal Waterways Administration Authority and the City of Hamburg looked into concerns about dike safety and ecological criticisms of the proposed deepening of the Elbe.

At the same time intensive talks were carried on with authorities and associations in Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein that are responsible for dike safety and natural conservation.

In response to these concerns, the developers have now modified their project. The changes relate to a number of details of the execution of the fairway adaptation, for the most part having to do with the way in which the dredged materials are disposed of, for instance dredged material will no longer be piled up against the north bank of the Elbe as originally planned.

Taking all the planning changes into account, moreover, studies of the ecological implications of the deepening of the channel have been supplemented or revised.

Hamburg’s Senator for Economy and Labour, Axel Gedaschko, said: “From our point of view, the dialogue with all the parties concerned has minimised the conflict potential of the situation. Talks will continue into the next phase of the proceedings. This is the only way in which the application for planning permission can be brought to a positive conclusion, giving users of the port the planning security that is called for. The adaptation of the fairway is not just in Hamburg’s interest – in the last resort, the whole region stands to benefit.”

The duration of the proceedings cannot be predicted exactly at this stage. Following reconsideration of the modified plans, public hearings will be held – probably in the first quarter of next year.

Assuming that permission is then granted according to plan,
dredging operations might be able to start before the end of 2009.

The work is expected to take approximately 21 months.