A complete service

Josef Möbius Bau is an engineering, construction and projects management company based in Hamburg, Germany. Since its establishment in 1951 as a family-owned business, it has been primarily involved with earthworks and rail industry projects but, since 1995, it has also become involved with the maritime industry in a number of ways. From canal dredging and port construction to offshore hydraulic engineering, the company has been involved with some of Germany’s most important marine projects. In 2008, the company was floated on the German stock market with 70 per cent of shares consequently being bought up by major Austrian construction firm Strabag.

Since the mid-1990s, Josef Möbius’ hydraulic engineering expertise has seen it become involved with the modification and maintenance of Germany’s extensive canal network. “For example, we have been responsible for maintenance dredging in the Kiel Canal, along the River Elbe,” says technical director Volker Kvester. “Between 2001 and 2004, we realised a large land reclamation project for a new Airbus work area, also in the River Elbe. There was already a large area but it wasn’t enough for the new A300 and A380, so we transported ten million cubic metres of sand to the site then used hopper and cutter-suction dredgers to extend it by nearly 100 hectares.

“At the moment we are involved with construction at Germany’s first deepwater container terminal, JadeWeserPort, located in the Port of Wilhelmshaven. We dredged nearly 40 million cubic metres of sand and reclaimed 350 hectares of land for the terminal, which is capable of handling the newest generation of container ships sized up to 15,000 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU). In a joint venture with three other mid-sized companies, we are also constructing a new 1725 metre quay wall that at 30 metres in height will be the largest in Europe.”

What these projects highlight is that the company can offer a complete service. Unlike competitors, which often focus entirely on dredging, Josef Möbius is able to offer both harbour construction and hydraulic engineering services. This means clients can approach Josef Möbius to undertake a whole project, handling all aspects of a new terminal construction as illustrated by the JadeWeserPort project.

Recently, to further improve this comprehensive service and following acquisition by Strabag, Josef Möbius has been investing in two new hopper barges; the larger of the two has a holding capacity of 7500 cubic metres and the other a capacity of 5500 cubic metres. The larger hopper, named Werner Möbius, was delivered at the end of 2010 and is currently undergoing initial operations whilst the second one is still being built at a shipyard in Hamburg and expected for delivery towards the end of this year. Self-loading, diesel-electric propelled and able to extend their suction pipes 30 metres down, the two barges will reinforce Josef Möbius’ position as innovative market leaders.

Innovation will also play a key factor in its approach to the emerging wind power industry. “When compared to Denmark or even the UK, offshore wind energy is a very small market at the moment in Germany,” says Volker. “Discussions about establishing it further have recently begun, however, particularly following the Fukushima incident. Strabag has already established a new division called Strabag Offshore Wind (SOV) and we are a part of this initiative. Josef Möbius’ role is to research and develop specialised equipment. For example, if an offshore windmill foundation needs to be installed at a depth of 40 metres with +/- five centimetres tolerance, then it is difficult and requires very specialised machinery. We are working, therefore, on answering the questions that these specifications raise.”

SOV is also comprised of two other companies: Züblin International and Strabag AG. The three companies engage in complementary activities that support ongoing research into the future of wind technology. Züblin has developed a special heavy weight foundation for shallow water installations, for example, and Josef Möbius created a test pit in which to put the equipment through its paces. Josef Möbius has also invested in the development of task-specific wind turbine transportation vessels with high capacities, enabling rapid installation at a rate of approximately one windmill every two days.

The move into wind energy forms just one part of the company’s strategy of the future, however. “We have to strengthen our core competencies in road and rail,” Volker explains, looking at the next few years for Josef Möbius. “There are several special techniques we have developed in these areas – soil improvement, for example – and through ongoing investment we can improve our abilities even further. Alongside this, we will also push new developments in harbour construction and hydraulic engineering to maintain our foothold at the market’s leading edge. Until now we have also focused primarily around Germany and Europe but we are beginning to look further afield, with projects in North Africa and South America. Working to our strengths and entering new markets is the way we have to go.”

Involved with Germany’s most important waterways
Wide ranging portfolio of services
Looking towards the growing renewable energy market