Container ships on the river Elbe (Photo: Port of Hamburg/Aufwind Luftbilder)
Germany’s Federal Administrative Court announced that plans to dredge the River Elbe adhere to the European Water Framework Directive.
The Court stated that the whole planning procedure has no deficiencies and the objections from the side of environmental organisations concerning water engineering measures cannot be upheld. Only protection of plant species, hemlock water dropwort, and the substitute areas must be improved, before the measures can be implemented.
As a consequence, the Hamburg Port Authority will now work on the fairway adjustments timeframe, covering also such issues like possible fluctuations of the salinity of the Elbe and habitat protection impact assessment. Additional compensation areas requirements are to be taken into account in the planning process, too.
“This makes it clear that the adjustment will happen, but we regret the repeated time delay in implementing the measure. Important is that for shipping on the Elbe and operations in the Port of Hamburg nothing will change. Up to now, we have been able to handle the largest container ships; this will be so in the future, too. There will be no deterioration,” Ingo Egloff, joint CEO Port of Hamburg Marketing, commented on the Court’s ruling.
Angela Titzrath, Chairwoman of Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA), added, “Following the lengthy proceedings and in light of the stark competition between major European ports, I would have hoped for a ruling that did not result in a further delay to the dredging of the Elbe River. It is extremely important that we and our customers are able to plan reliably. We therefore expect those involved in the proceedings to eliminate the existing uncertainties as quickly as possible. The dredging of the navigation channel must take place quickly to ensure that the Port of Hamburg remains competitive. It is in the interests of the city and its citizens that all responsible parties now work closely with one another. HHLA deems a goal-orientated dialogue involving political representatives, the relevant authorities at the port, associations and companies to be beneficial.”
The dispute around deepening the Elbe River has been topical at least since 2012, when the state of Lower Saxony finally assented the adjustment of the navigation channel. However, later on the Federal Administrative Court accepted emergency petitions against the planning approval on the adjustment of the Elbe channel, resulting in a few delays over the past five years.