The small town of Wilhelmshaven on Germany’s North Sea coast, with a population of only 81,000, is already the country’s largest naval base.
With its new Jade-Weser-Port container hub, Wilhelmshaven became Germany’s only deep water port and hopes to give Rotterdam and Antwerp a run for their money and become the main stopping point in Europe for supersize container ships arriving from Asia.
Since the mid-1950s, Wilhelmshaven has become the largest German import terminal for crude oil, with pipelines supplying refineries in the Rhine-Ruhr region and Hamburg, and also a major handling location for goods such as petroleum products, coal and chemical products.
Nevertheless, the Jade-Weser-Port Container Terminal will catapult the port into the world’s premier league, with the capacity to handle the largest container ships — including the future triple-E class ships that have a carrying capacity of 18,000 TEU or “twenty-foot equivalent unit,” which is the unit of measure in the sector.
Wilhelmshaven’s 18m deep port will allow these huge new giants to dock fully loaded independent of the tide at any time of night or day.
At the moment, the site is a vast stretch of sand with a few diggers and excavators, a scattering of buildings still under construction.
On the waterfront sit four giant 83m high cranes newly arrived from China, which will load and unload vast container ships that Wilhelmshaven hopes to soon welcome.
“They are the highest in the world,” boasts Jan Miller, director of the logistics zone next to the new container hub.
However, just when the cranes will start their work is still not certain. Officially, the port, which is costing more than 1 billion euros (US$1.25 billion) mostly from the regional state of Lower Saxony, is scheduled to open for business on Aug. 5. A ship of Danish group Maersk will be among the first to dock there, a spokesman said for the company, which is currently the only customer of the new port.
“We’re in talks with others, but we haven’t yet signed any concrete agreements,” Marcel Egger, director of the port operator Eurogate, said.
A neighboring industrial zone will be home to logistics and services companies, but there is only a single one there at the moment.
“Sure, there’s not going to be frenetic activity on the first day,” concedes Miller, but he predicted the port would be operating at full steam “in five or seven years.”