Environmental issues trump economic growth
The protection of a unique sweet water fennel plant prevails over further port development
Germany’s biggest port desperately needs further deepening to adapt to the draught and tonnage of growing sea-going vessels, allowing Hamburg to keep up with competition from other ports. However, the Federal Administrative Court of Germany found that environmental aspects play a major role as well. In keeping the equilibrium between economic growth and preservation, the balance once more has swung in favour of nature.
1. The plan: The aim of the most recent deepening plan, originating in 2006, is to enable in the future container vessels with a draught of 13,5m in salt water navigation of the river Elbe independent of the tide and vessels with a draught of 14,5m should be able to navigate.
2. The issue: Concerns raised by the claimants – environmentalist groups of good reputation – against this plan related to further salting of the river water with harming effects to plants, birds and porpoises as well as local fruit farms located south of the river in close vicinity to the port. However, the main reason why the current plans are considered illegal and non-enforceable is the existence of a petite water fennel, growing exclusively in the south bank marsh area of the river Elbe.
3. The ruling: The Federal Administrative Court of Germany ruled that Hamburg can deepen the river Elbe, but only once it addresses the environmental issues.
It goes without saying that since the day of the judgement the water fennel enjoys now more prominence than ever in the local maritime industry.