Hamburg Dredging Opponents Will Not Pursue a Stay
After 17 years of planning, work on the Hamburg harbor deepening project will finally begin, despite continued legal action by environmental groups.
The German Nature Conservation Union (NABU) and its partner organizations will file an appeal with the Federal Administrative Court in a new attempt to block the dredging program, but they have decided not to seek an emergency stay. This means that work on the project may proceed as the legal battle carries on. Alexander Porschke, NABU's chairman, said that the decision not to seek a stay was a difficult choice, but the odds of succeeding in court and obtaining one were low.
The appeals process may take years, giving the port time to make physical progress on the project. Hamburg plans to issue tenders for dredging soon, and work is likely to begin in March. City leaders called the news of the groups' decision a positive move. "The Port of Hamburg is and will remain a central economic engine, creating more than 150,000 jobs here in northern Germany alone," said Hamburg's Senator for Economic Affairs Frank Horch. ""Even if the dispute continues now, it is my conviction that we have long since found a good balance between economic and environmental interests."
Hamburg received regulatory approval to move forward with the project in August, resolving previous court disputes about its environmental impact. The $700 million harbor deepening project will add 2.4 meters of depth to the port's approach channel, which would be enough for large container ships to transit with about 1,800 TEU more on board than they can carry today. In addition, the project will create a wide "passing box" where inbound and outbound ULCVs will be able to navigate around one another, thereby improving traffic flow. Completion is expected in 2020.
Supporters of the dredging project say that it is needed in order to compete successfully with neighboring ports. Hamburg has been losing container traffic to its competitors, in large part due to the inability of ultra-large container ships to access its terminals while fully laden. Its volumes dropped last year by about one percent, while throughput rose at a healthy rate at Rotterdam and Antwerp.