At Last, Hamburg Welcomes its First Megamax With Increased Draft

HPA/Julia Kück

Published May 6, 2021 8:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

The CMA CGM Jacques Saadé has become the first megamax boxship to transit the newly-enlarged Elbe shipping channel with an increased draft allowance. The occasion is momentous for the Port of Hamburg, as it marks the end of a contentious, multi-year project to deepen the fairway. 

Now that the dredging works are completed on the Lower and Outer Elbe fairway adjustment, the port is allowing the largest boxships to begin transiting with increased drafts. The CMA CGM Jacques Saadé can now take advantage of an extra three feet of permissible draft in the newly-dredged channel. This means that she can carry about 1,000 more boxes to Hamburg than before. 

“A good day for the Port of Hamburg, which can finally fully exploit its market potential again. And a good day for the German economy, as it ensures efficient access to world markets over the long term. Last but not least, a good day for the environment, since the expansion of the fairway has significantly strengthened ocean-going vessels as an environmentally friendly and climate-friendly means of transport," said Hamburg Senator Michael Westhagemann in a statement.

Port of Hamburg says that the previous draft restrictions on the Lower and Outer Elbe left it at a competitive disadvantage, allowing other nearby mega-ports to pick up business from ever-larger vessels. The port is looking forward to putting that era in the past, and it expects to authorize the final stage of draft increases in the second half of the year.

"Today the Port of Hamburg has made history. We now have optimal conditions for receiving the world’s largest containerships," said Jens Meier, CEO of the Port of Hamburg.

The dredging project deepened the fairway and created a new 1,300 foot wide passing box along a three-mile stretch, creating enough room for inbound and outbound ships to pass without waiting. The project was highly controversial, and it was delayed for years by a series of lawsuits filed by Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), Nature Conservation Union Germany (NABU) and other groups.