The billion-euro JadeWeserPort is a prestige project which has seen its completion delayed several times as it ran into technical and financial problems. Now the superstructure is ready to compete for top spot in Europe.
Container ships with a length of 430 meters (470 yards) and an underwater depth of up to 16.5 meters will be able to call at the new North Sea port at any tide. Those giant ships carry up to 18,000 containers.
The single quay makes the town of Wilhelmshaven, which with a population of just over 80,000 is already the country’s largest naval base, Germany’s only deepwater port.
Completion of the construction had been slowed down by administrative, budget and technical problems. It last hit a snag earlier this year, when deep cracks in the quay wall were detected. They have still not been repaired.
The north German federal states of Lower Saxony and Bremen invested heavily into the port and representatives from those states' governments along with Economics Minister Philip Rösler witnessed the first ship, the 300-meter long Danish "Maersk Laguna," arrive.
"This is a new gateway to the world," said David McAllister, state premier of Lower Saxony.
The port will be operated by Eurogate, Europe's leading container-terminal group, which also runs 10 other terminals in the North Sea, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
Representatives of Germany's largest port, Hamburg, said they do not fear the new competition. While the new Jade Weser Port expects to handle up to 640,000 containers, Hamburg handles nine million per year.
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 chemicals.
rg/rc (dpa, afpe)