German Court Rejects Appeal against Elbe River Dredging

Nov 30, 2017

The Port of Hamburg may finally see more giant containerships enter its waters.

Namely, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig dismissed on Tuesday, November 28 the actions brought by the towns of Cuxhaven and Otterndorf as well as by Elbe and coastal fishermen against the planning approval decisions for the fairway adaptation in the lower and outer Elbe.

The court said that while assessing the appeals it decided to give priority to the public interest stemming from the deepened Elbe waterway over the “conflicting interests of the plaintiffs“.

Commenting on the ruling Frank Horch, Minister of Economy, Transport, and Innovation in Hamburg, said the decision brings the deepening of the Elbe project a step closer to the implementation.

“I remain very confident that we will be able to implement the project in the near future. We’ve been working since February to dispel the court’s final concerns,” Horch said.

The Minister added that revisions have been included in the third supplementary procedure for the plan, and that an application for the procedure can be expected to be submitted to the planning approval authorities in January 2018.

On December 13, the Federal Administrative Court will hear the remaining lawsuits from four private individuals and water and soil associations.

The private owners have issued a complaint against significant adverse effects of noise, vibrations, and coastal erosion resulting from the dredging while the associations are asking for supplementary regulations to the planning approval decisions with regard to ensuring drainage and irrigation of their areas and flood protection guarantees.

With the completion of these legal proceedings, all pending lawsuits against the dredging will be completed.

In February this year, the FAC gave a conditional green light to the dredging plan, stating that certain revisions have to be incorporated in order to address existing environmental concerns.

The plan was described as “partially illegal and not enforceable because of the violation of the habitat protection law.”

The project, aimed at adjusting the navigation channel on the lower and outer Elbe river, would enable the Port of Hamburg to accommodate mega ships.

Around 130 kilometers of the river is to be dredged, enabling the containerships with a 14.5-meter draught to reach the port, against 13.5 meters at present, according to the plan.

The deepening of the river has been earmarked as a key project for the port to remain competitive.

“We continue to operate in a challenging market environment. Uncertainty remains in the form of the volatile trend in international trade, which has prompted a structural slowdown in growth over recent years and in the conditions at the Port of Hamburg. We are still waiting for work to commence on the dredging of the river Elbe,” Angela Titzrath, the Chairwoman of HHLA’s Executive Board, said while commenting on the company’s business performance in the third quarter.

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