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Germany’s Federal Administrative Court has dismissed the latest objections to the port of Hamburg’s plans to deepen the lower Elbe.
But The Loadstar understands that nevertheless, it still has a few more hurdles to clear.
Local news reported that the Leipzig-based court had thrown out claims from several neighbouring cities and commercial fishermen opposed to dredging, suggesting work was imminent.
However, a spokesperson for the port told The Loadstar 11 years of legal hold-ups were not at an end yet.
“We face at least one final round of opposition from two individuals who claim the new security light tower will be too close to their house and shine into their bedroom,” said the spokesperson.
“While this creates further delay, we do not believe it will amount to much and believe their claim will also be dismissed – the light is necessary for the safe passage of vessels on the river.”
The spokesperson said there was also an expectation that at least two or three more private parties would seek to block the expansion.
Should they be heard, these private individuals would represent the third attempt this year to block the dredging after environmentalists raised concerns in February over possible harm to local wildlife.
In this instance, the court rubber-stamped the project, but maintained a stop-work order until substitute areas for hemlock and water dropwort plant life along the Elbe could be provided.
It also said concerns on the fluctuation of river salinity had to be addressed, although chief executive of Hamburg Port Authority Jens Meier said the court’s decision indicated the need for the expansion.
Put on hold in 2013, the Elbe deepening project involved plans for the 385-metre channel to increase capacity for ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs) by 1,800 teu per call.
After the February decision, a spokesperson for the port told The Loadstar that, assuming there were no more protests, construction could start within the next year or two.
“But with no fixed time schedule, it is difficult to fully communicate plans to carriers, as under German law nothing can start without a complete project plan,” said the spokesperson.
Joint chief executive of the port’s marketing Ingo Egloff said the decision made it clear that the adjustment would happen, but regretted the repeated delays.
“What is important is that, in the meantime, conditions for shipping on the Elbe and in the port of Hamburg have not changed,” he said. “And there will be no deterioration.”
Alongside deepening the Elbe, the port has also sought to reduce landside congestion with the introduction of a time slot-booking system for handling container deliveries and collections by truck.
The system will be implemented at all four of the port’s HHLA container terminals, as an attempt to relieve peak periods and reduce waiting time.
Port of Hamburg has seen an increase in the number of containerships with capacities of over 20,000 teu calling, meaning up to 14,500 teu are handled in a single ship call.
This, it said, has led to container transport peaks to, from and around the port, with some noting that city-wide congestion – particularly in the last 18 months – had increased as a result.
Under the system, each time slot will last one hour, with the booked truck handled with “maximum priority” at the container terminal.
Drivers who miss their slots will get lower priority, provided there is capacity at the terminal.