EXCLUSIVE: Port of Hamburg CEO on Elbe Dredging

During the recent SMM Hamburg 2014 show, one of the world’s leading events for the maritime industry, we took the opportunity to speak with Mr. Axel Mattern, Port of Hamburg CEO, and discuss ongoing development activities in the port.

One of the Port’s biggest projects at the moment is to dredge the River Elbe from the open sea to Hamburg in order to pursue the development and growth targets of the Germany’s largest universal port. In 2013 the Port of Hamburg achieved total throughput of 139 million tons, representing growth of 6.2 percent.

It is of utmost importance for the Port to get the drought of the river Elbe dredged for an additional one meter. We do not have to dredge the entire river, just a few parts.” said Mr. Mattern.

We have been planning this project for 12 years now, and along the way we have faced so many different protests, activities, as well as new regulations from the EU. We had our court case hearing in June, and we expect the final decision on the matter on October 2.

Upon being asked by our reporter what the consequences would be of having such dredging project denied by court Mr. Mattern said: “The consequences of not doing the project would be that the Port operations will remain as they are now. That would be unfortunate, but I do not think the World would crumble if the project was denied.”

The deepening of the river would allow us to handle the increasing amounts of cargo that have been coming from Rotterdam and Antwerp in the recent years. It would ease operating and navigating ships into the Port. But depth is not the biggest issue for Hamburg, because as I mentioned we are a turning point for liner services, and the ships do not really need the depth in Hamburg,” continued Mr. Mattern.

On the other hand, we need the breadth for the river navigation because the amount of ships calling at the Port is rising, and in order to accommodate these ships, we need to widen the river Elbe. Our river pilots and our IT systems are already at a stage where they could be more effective than they are right now,” added Mr. Mattern.

When you look at the order books of major shipyards, the number of big ships being built matches the current number of big ships in service, and seeing that Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg are the only ports handling these big ships, we have to cope with that and therefore we need these widenings,” said Axel Mattern, Port of Hamburg CEO.

It remains to be seen how the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig will rule on the issue of deepening the navigation channel on the Lower and Outer Elbe.

 

Dredging Today Staff, September 15, 2014

 

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