Germany’s First Tide-Independent Deepwater Port to Open on Friday in Wilhelmshaven
Enlarge image Jade-Weser dock in Wilhelmshaven (© picture alliance / dpa) The opening of the Jade-Weser deepwater port will make Germany well equipped for the future of global freight transport at sea – the world’s largest container ship is scheduled to dock at Wilhelmshaven on Friday, September 21. Even with a draft of up to 16.5 meters when fully loaded, the ship can still dock at the port regardless of the tide level. Docking a ship of this size on the German coast was previously not possible. All that is missing now in the deepwater port are deep-pocketed customers – and so far there is only one.
It took 46 million cubic meters of sand and a billion euros to transform a part of the North Sea into an ultra-modern port. Add in 16 years of planning and four-and-a-half years of construction and one can begin to imagine why nothing about the process went smoothly, including slip-ups, delays, political disputes and legal battles. The 360-acre port was finished nearly two years later than originally planned. To top things off, the planned opening in August of the port had to be pushed back an additional seven weeks due to a total of 341 cracks in the steel bulkhead. While the necessary renovation is now complete, the dispute over who should bear the costs remains unsettled – an issue that the courts will have to adjudicate.
But the new port has almost everything that the shipping industry could need, including a water depth of 18 meters, the most powerful cranes on the market, direct access to a freeway and 1,000 meters of docks, which is to be extended to 1,725 by the end of construction, scheduled for August 2013. There is enough space at the port to handle four of the world’s largest ships, measuring nearly 400 meters long and with a concurrent capacity of nearly 15,000 standard containers (TEU – or twenty-foot equivalent unit).
Enlarge image The port is equiped with the most powerful cranes on the market. (© picture alliance / dpa) Even the ships of the future are to be able to dock at the port in Wilhelmshaven. The world’s largest container shipping company, Denmark-based Maersk, is to dock its first “Triple-E class” ship at Wilhelmshaven in 2013: the ships measure 400 meters long and can carry up to 18,000 TEU containers. Emanuel Schiffer, the head of the shipping company Eurogate, predicted that “ships will continue to grow large,” saying that ships would soon break the 20,000 TEU mark.
It makes sense that the Danish and German companies work together on the port – Maersk owns a 30-percent share of the comny managing the port, making it the port’s lone client as of now. That said, at least one ship per week on the Central America-Asia route is to dock in the new harbor. The 300-meter-long “Maersk Laguna”, with a capacity of 7,500 TEU containers, is to be the first ship to dock on Friday.
More than 1,000 guests from the political and business spheres are expected to be at the port’s opening, although more paying customers besides Maersk are still needed. Approximately 2.7 millio containers should travel through the port per year in the medium-term, meaning that the port would still be behind its German port competitors in Hamburg and Bremerhaven, as well as Europe’s largest port, located in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Eurogate is hoping to get 650,000 containers through in the first year.