Hamburg gets conditional approval to deepen Elbe River
The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig has expressly underlined the necessity for the adjustment of the fairway with its judgement, Hafen Hamburg said in its press release. The navigation channel will be adjusted. With its judgement, the court has clarified the most essential questions in the lawsuit. Now Hamburg and the Federal government need to extend the process. Protection for the plant species ‘Hemlock Water Dropwort’ needs to be improved. Just how that will look and how long the project will be delayed as a result can only be judged when the court’s guidance has been precisely examined. In addition, the court has criticized rulings in the planning decisions on ensuring coherence, yet at the same time emphasizing that this defect can be remedied and should not lead to the cancellation of the planning decisions.
According to the Federal Administrative Court, the applicants’ other claims are not valid. To quote the press release from the court: “The planning approval notices suffer from neither notable procedural shortcomings nor additional germane legal errors. Renewed public participation in the supplementary proceedings was also not required. There are no objections to the Federal Waterways Engineering & Research Institute’s forecasts on the hydro- and morphodynamic repercussions of the project. In planning terms the project is justified, since in view of the trend in ship sizes, the planning authorities may assume a corresponding requirement for traffic. The planning authorities have rightly denied any serious adverse effects on further protected species such as twaite shad (Alosa fallax) or nesting birds. Examination of the alternatives in terms of habitat protection law also raised no objections, while those behind the project do not need to quote names in citing cooperation with ports. The project neither infringes the legal ban on water deterioration nor does it conflict with the requirement for improvement. Possible effects on the primarily determinant biological quality components are not so serious as to cause any deterioration in the sense of the judgements by the Court of Justice of the European Union.”
Fairway adjustment is the Port of Hamburg’s most important strategic expansion project. The legal questions raised partly involved entering new territory. For the first time, it will now be possible to read how the legal framework for managing and protecting waterways is to be applied throughout Germany. Rapidly growing ships oblige Hamburg in the long term to adapt its seaward access to this technical development. This is the only way of ensuring that calls can be made at Hamburg on commercially viable conditions, and of keeping its port competitive.
Senator Frank Horch comments: “We now have legal certainty at last. We have been deemed right on the issue. Even if we now have to extend the fundamentals for approval on account of the enhanced demands of environmental legislation, there is no doubt that fairway adjustment will be coming. The Port of Hamburg is and will remain a crucial powerhouse for the economy, having created more than 150,000 jobs here in Northern Germany alone. As a significant world port, it functions as an international trade hub for the whole of Germany, offering absolutely all the services required for freight transport. Today’s judgement will regrettably once again cost us time. All the same, we shall be planning and implementing the next steps as rapidly as possible.”