FAC Delays Final Decision on Elbe River Dredging

Two passing containerships on the Elbe

The Federal Administrative Court (FAC) in Leipzig has decided to prolong its final decision on the deepening and widening of the navigation channel on the Lower and Outer Elbe River.

The Court in Leipzig yesterday adjourned the proceedings by the BUND and NABU environmental associations against the plan approval concerning the dredging of the lower and outer stretches of the river Elbe until the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg has reached a decision regarding a pending referral of the interpretive ruling on the Water Framework Directive.

The hearing at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), one of CJEU three courts, took place on 8 July 2014, but a decision is not expected until spring 2015.

Port of Hamburg Marketing Executive Board Members Axel Mattern and Ingo Egloff commented the Court’s decision by saying:

We respect the decision announced here by the Federal Administrative Court (FAC) in Leipzig on the deepening and widening of the navigation channel on the Lower and Outer Elbe. A final decision can only be taken when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has clarified questions still outstanding on the so-called prohibition of deterioration and desirability of improvement embodied in the European Water Framework Directive.

FAC Delays Final Decision on Elbe River DredgingThe 7th division of the FAC, which is responsible for waterways law, last summer ruled against the expansion of the river Weser under the Water Framework Directive after objections from environmental associations. With its decision of 11 July 2013, the Federal Administrative Court presented the ECJ with a range of questions concerning the Water Framework Directive’s so-called prevention of deterioration and requirement for improvement.

However, the FAC also emphasized that while the environmental compatibility assessments in respect of the fauna/flora done for the planning approval for the deepening of the navigation channel of the Lower and Outer Elbe exhibit various shortcomings, in its opinion these can be overcome and should not lead to a lifting of the said approval.

Port of Hamburg is the Northern European hub optimally located for handling worldwide cargo flows and transport chains in seaborne foreign trade. Against the background of an increasing number of calls by mega-ships, access from the sea via the Elbe is of vital importance for the Port of Hamburg and the companies based there and in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region.

According to the Board Members, “More than 150,000 jobs are linked with the port. Distinctly improved accessibility is also urgently needed for all those industrial and trading concerns engaged in worldwide foreign trade that use Germany’s largest universal port for their exports and imports.

Klaus-Dieter Peters, Chairman of the Executive Board of Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG: “We regret the continued delay of the urgently needed dredging of the river Elbe, which comes into effect with today’s ruling by the Federal Administrative Court. What’s pleasing, however, is that the court found no shortcomings in the plan approval, which could lead to the approval being revoked. We now eagerly look forward to the Luxembourg based European Court of Justice’s interpretive ruling on the Water Framework Directive.”

October 3, 2014; Image: hafen-hamburg; Video: realTV group

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