Jade-Weser-Port opens for business

9/21/2012

Today sees the opening of the largest infrastructure project along the German coast, the container terminal in Wilhelmshaven, marketed under the name Jade-Weser-Port.

Around 1,000 guests are expected to witness the unloading of the first containers from the 7,450teuMaersk Laguna.

When Wilhelmshaven was first chosen as the future location of a new deepsea container terminal in 2001, the parties involved did not expect the completion of the project to take so long.

Right from the start, terminal operator Eurogate expressed its interest in operating the new terminal. Eventually, it won the concession in 2006 and partnered with APM Terminals.

In the wake of the shipping crisis and decreasing turnover volumes, the operators twice decided to delay the opening, and finally revised the date forward to August 2012. Construction flaws were responsible for the latest delay.

To date, Maersk Line has remained the only line which has committed itself to bringing services to Wilhelmshaven. According to local reports, 30 boxships altogether are scheduled to call at Jade-Weser-Port between now and Christmas. For the time being, two Maersk Line services have added the new terminal as an additional port of call. 

Eurogate has guaranteed turnover of 640,000teu for the first year. At full capacity, Wilhelmshaven will be able to handle 2.7 million teu.

The new terminal offers four berths along 1,725 metres of quay, which are equipped with 16 gantry cranes. The water depth is 18 metres, which makes it accessible for the latest generation of boxships fully laden. This is a clear advantage over Hamburg, Germany’s leading box port in terms of handling volume, where the river Elbe restricts the possible draft of ships.

Hamburg declined the option to take a stake in the realisation company which is in charge of the actual construction of the new facility. It is owned by the states of Lower Saxony and Bremen. Nevertheless, its initial fierce resistance to the project has somewhat mellowed, although the discounts for port handling fees announced earlier this year annoyed its competitors.

Hamburg relies on its position as a hub for the Baltic Sea area and on its comparatively high share of local cargo. Wilhelmshaven is still struggling with its hinterland connections.

Almost defiantly, Hamburg reported a call by one of CMA CGM’s new 16,000teu flagships for later this year, releasing the news just days before the Wilhelmshaven opening.

Within sight of the crowd gathering for the opening will be the MSC Flaminia, the boxship damaged by explosions and fire that was towed to the port earlier in September after an odyssey. Now that the fire has been extinguished, the vessel is waiting to be discharged.

Decontamination work starts this week. At the same time, Germanischer Lloyd has set up a discharge plan, according to which containers and extinguishing water will be discharged simultaneously in order to maintain the stability of the vessel. Boxes which are still warmer than normal will have priority, followed by those with hazardous cargo. 

According to the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies, which is in charge of the operations, the number of boxes identified as containing hazardous cargo has gone up to 153. Damaged boxes will be discharged into a special tank.

Ship manager Reederei NSB said in a statement: “Various swipe samples on the containers of MSC Flaminiaconducted by the Technical Inspection Association have shown that no contamination on the surfaces of the containers can be detected.

“The fire investigators commissioned by Reederei NSB and the charterer MSC are still investigating the cause of the fire onboard MSC Flaminia.”