Bremerhaven port celebrates a memorable anniversary

Bremerhaven’s rise to an important international gateway in container logistics began exactly 50 years ago

Bremerhaven port celebrates a memorable anniversary

On February 10, 1968, Harbor Senator Dr. Georg Bortscheller north of the Nordschleuse (“northern lock”) came with a crawler excavator to symbolically start the construction of the container terminal Bremerhaven. Just two years after that, the first container was unloaded in Bremen’s overseas port in 1966, Bremerhaven prepared itself for the revolution in transport, which was accompanied by the triumph of the container.

In Bremen, the rapid change in maritime transport was recognized early. The proximity of the port to the open sea was an essential criterion for success. The conventional port facilities in the Kaiserhafen or on the Columbus quay were not suitable for container handling. Therefore, in 1967, the port deputation decided to focus its investments from Bremen to Bremerhaven and to build a 750 meter long sea quay north of the Nordschleuse.

Such a project on the open tidal current was unprecedented in the world. The planned quay had to cope with very different loads than previously built for passenger traffic and cargo handling quay. They decided to implement the construction designed by Prof. Dr. Walter Hansen of the Franciscan Institute in Hannover. This provided a covered embankment at the height of the land protection dike, so that storm surges would not flood the adjacent terrain. Beneath the quay section, which stood on more than 40 meters long stilts, shaft clamps were formed to the water side. They should catch the waves, especially during storms.

On 14 September 1971, the President of the Senate, Mayor Hans Koschnick, was able to inaugurate the “Containerkreuz Bremerhaven”. The plant included the 750 meter long quay with its handling facilities. Between the current quay and the harbor quay, there was an exhibition area of more than 750,000 m² for the containers landed by the meanwhile eight container services operating on Bremerhaven. Rail and road connections were available for rapid onward transport, so that the system could be rightly referred to as a container cross. It was already used for about 300,000 TEU in 1971.

Significant investments were needed to complete the container terminal. The Senate financed the construction with 208 million D-Mark, the Bremer Lagerhaus-Gesellschaft as operator funded it with almost 69 million D-Mark.

The decision to build a container terminal laid the foundation for a lasting success story to this day.  After a total of six expansion stages, the port facility has grown to around five kilometers in length and more than 3 million m² of installation and traffic area. It offers 14 berths for large container ships and 90 connections for refrigerated containers.

The company has been taken over by closely cooperating companies. North Sea Terminal Bremerhaven (NTB) is operating in the northern part; the middle part is operated by Eurogate, and south of the facility there is the MSC Gate. In recent years, an average of around 5.5 million TEU has been handled at the container terminal. According to a recent Lloyds List, Bremerhaven is number four in Europe and number 26 among container ports in the world.