Since December 1, ships that call at the port of Hamburg are only allowed to do so with a shallower draft. This was decided by the Federal Waterways and Shipping Directorate in November because too much silt and sand had settled in the Elbe. The regulation applies at least until November 30, 2023. This means that large container ships have less leeway for transporting goods for a year and can sometimes only enter with a reduced load. The port industry and also Hamburg’s Mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD) therefore see the competitiveness of the port in danger. They hold the federal government responsible for this and demand that it do more digging.
Heated debates about the deepening of the Elbe in Hamburg
But there is also a heated argument in Hamburg – about the deepening of the Elbe. The EUR 800 million measure was intended to ensure that ships with a draft of up to 14.5 meters could call at Hamburg. This is no longer possible just a few months after graduation. Hamburg’s Greens had therefore declared the Elbe deepening a failure. And there have also been heated discussions in the citizenship recently. Environmental organizations such as NABU, BUND and WWF are calling for a rethink anyway. They had already complained about the deepening of the Elbe and consider the constant dredging to be ecologically questionable. “The senseless dredging must end before the ecological damage is irreparable,” they said.
Dispute with Lower Saxony about dumping at Scharhörn
In order to get rid of the large amount of silt, Hamburg announced at the beginning of the year that it wanted to dump it near the bird protection island of Scharhörn in the Wadden Sea National Park. The island is an enclave of Hamburg and is located northwest of Cuxhaven off the coast of Lower Saxony. There is therefore also massive resistance to the plans from Lower Saxony. Like the environmental organizations, the country fears massive consequences for the environment. Hamburg’s silt problems should not be solved at the expense of Cuxhaven, Cuxhaven’s mayor Uwe Santjer (SPD) said. And Lower Saxony’s Economics Minister Olaf Lies (SPD) called for an “ecological sediment strategy”. For example, the sediments should be used to build dikes instead of being disposed of. Lower Saxony had announced that it would also consider legal action if necessary.
Further dumping off Heligoland possible?
Schleswig-Holstein also sees dangers for protected areas. “A dumping of the silt near Scharhörn will meet my resolute resistance,” said Schleswig-Holstein Environment Minister Tobias Goldschmidt (Greens). In addition, Elbschlick is also unloaded off Helgoland, a quota agreed with Hamburg has been exhausted by the end of the year. The connection agreement is therefore being discussed in Schleswig-Holstein. And the coastal fishermen in the country are also concerned about the silt. They demand dumping on land or on the high seas. Because the deepening of the Elbe has been affecting the water quality in the North Sea for years. The shrimp fishermen in Schleswig-Holstein fear that the shrimp stocks are declining.