Gateway to the world

Bremen has been an important maritime location for hundreds of years, serving as a key juncture between mainland Europe and the rest of the world since the Middle Ages. The first modern harbour at Bremerhaven (located at the mouth of Weser River) was, however, constructed in 1827 and followed by a trading port in the neighbouring city of Geestemünde, which is now a part of Bremerhaven. During the last few decades, the twin ports of Bremen and Bremerhaven have strengthened their leading position in Europe step by step. Today, Bremerhaven ranks fourth place in European container handling and is one of the biggest ports for automobile logistics worldwide.

Since 2002, the port management company Bremenports has run both Bremen and Bremerhaven on behalf of the Bremen citystate Government. As a German universal port handling all types of traffic from freight to passengers it was the first to adopt privatised management, streamlining the ports’ functions and making them increasingly efficient. This is reflected in the number of development projects undertaken to expand its capabilities including: the 20 million euro restoration of Columbus Cruise Centre passenger terminal, the 450 million euro construction of Container Terminal 4, a new port expansion in Osthafen, as well as a new 230 million euro lock facility (Kaiserschleuse), which will accommodate for Bremen’s increasing automobile handling activities.

Another important project is also due to start taking shape: Bremerhaven, which has become one of Europe’s leading industrial locations for the offshore wind energy business (with 1100 engineers and workers in place), is on its way to expanding its economical activities. New Offshore Terminal Bremerhaven – with a quay length of 500 metres, area of 25 hectares and an investment of approximately 200 million euros – is due to be built and used exclusively by offshore wind energy logistics. Handling activities are going to begin in 2014. To find both a private investor and a terminal operator, Bremenports will be starting an international tender in March 2011.

Perhaps the authority’s most ambitious project yet, though, is known as JadeWeserPort. In a one billion euro joint venture with Lower Saxony – the state that encompasses Bremen – a new deepwater port will be constructed in the German Bight town of Wilhelmshaven to meet the demands of future container shipping. It will be the country’s largest harbour project to date. The location offers navigation for ships of up to 16.5-metre draught, a short 23 sea-mile approach from the ocean, large turning areas and capacity for up to 2.7 million TEU. The Bremen city-state holds a 49.9 per cent stake in the project, which began in March 2008 with a projected completion date of August 2012, whilst Lower Saxony holds the other 50.1 per cent.

Bremenports meanwhile continues in the operation of Bremen and Bremenhaven, where it is responsible for the infrastructural functions. Part of this responsibility includes expanding the port as previously mentioned, but the majority of its work lies in the smooth running of day-to-day activities. This includes many of the two ports’ basic services such as dredging, lock operation and many other port maintenance services handled by nearly 400 staff.

Most crucially Bremenports’ role includes the continuous maintenance of almost 34 km of quay, 186 km of rail tracks, 56 bridges, five locks and over nine kilometres of dykes, all of which are essential to port infrastructure. To do this, approximately 130 people are detailed to carry out regular inspections and safety assessments, carry out minor maintenance work, and organise major repair contracts.

The port facilities of Bremen and Bremerhaven have been the first in Germany to be ISPS-certified due to new international safety rules. Sixty individual areas at the ports now have security fencing in place to prevent unauthorised access including all terminals and shipyards. Environmental policies dictate minimal environmental impact in everything from ship waste disposal to new port development projects.

Maintaining efficient operations has been one of the key facets in the two ports’ ongoing success. Until 2008 the number of arriving vessels totalled almost 10,000 a year and, though impacted by the financial crisis, 2009 still saw almost 8000 sea ships. The two most notable ship types are containers and roll-on-roll-off (automobile) carriers, with 2009 figures at 63 per cent, 15 per cent and nine per cent respectively. In total, throughout 2009 both Bremen and Bremerhaven saw 63.1 million tonnes of sea freight throughput – a significant drop from 2008’s 74.5 million but still equivalent to figures from the mid-2000s.

The port also offers key geographical advantages. Its location on the European continent, for example, makes it an ideal gateway between mainland Europe, Scandinavia, the UK and the Atlantic. There is also an extensive rail network throughout the ports themselves, connecting to key mainlines across the country, and enabling cross-country freighting to be carried out efficiently. Even shorter distance consignments are well catered for by excellent access to roads, making truck haulage an essential means of delivery for many companies that use the port – particularly the important automobile sector. Bremerhaven is one of the most important hubs for car handling in the world, in 2010, approximately 1.6 million vehicles were loaded and discharged at the port’s quays.

With projects such as JadeWeserPort, Kaiserschleuse lock and Offshore Terminal Bremerhaven that will increase the capability of Bremenports’ activities in the pipeline, as well as a projected return of market growth over the next few years, the authority has bright prospects on the horizon. The organisation’s plan is guided by several key principles that focus on the building of the harbours’ strengths as container and automobile handling. Through the efficient management of maintenance, upgrades and pro-actively creating a friendly investment environment that will encourage new business and jobs, Bremenports is embedding itself as a unique but key European port authority.

Operates key port group of Bremen/Bremerhaven
Part of Germany’s largest new harbour project
Rebuilding the Kaiserschleuse lock