elbe | germany

Ports: Hamburg, Brunsbüttel, Cuxhaven
Length: 141 km
Brockmann Consult, Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (© 2003)

Who is who?

  • The Hamburg Port Authority (HPA)is one of the main stakeholders in the sustainable development of the Elbe estuary. HPA is in charge of the strategic development and management of the Port of Hamburg, including the safeguarding of necessary water depths for seagoing vessels.
  • The Wasser- und Schifffahrtsverwaltung des Bundes (WSV) was not a partner in the TIDE project but they are responsible for sediment management of the Elbe estuary outside of the borders of the city of Hamburg.
  • The Lower Saxony Water Management, Coastal Defence and Nature Conservation Agency (NLWKN) was involved in various coordination and implementation tasks, including assessment of the environmental status of the Elbe estuary and development of criteria for the common definition of aims and vision for the area, in accordance with requirements of the Water Framework Directive and NATURA 2000.
  • The Hamburg Ministry of Urban Development and Environment (BSU) was not a partner in the TIDE project but is responsible for Hamburg's transportation and traffic policies, construction and maintenance of installations for flood control and surface water, building regulation/construction supervision, and nature protection for the city of Hamburg among other areas very relevant to the TIDE project.


The unfavourable development of the Elbe estuary during the past decades has intensified the tidal pumping effect, which has led to an increase of the dredging amounts, making the efforts for maintenance dredging unreasonably costly.

The Elbe estuary lies at the intersection of three Bundesländer (Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Niedersachsen), creating challenges for its management. There are a number of working groups from the three regions dealing with the implementation of management measures according to the Water Framework Directive and Natura 2000. Each Bundesland is in charge of measures for its territory, making it difficult to achieve agreements.


The Hamburg Port Authority and the Federal Administration for Waterways and Navigation have developed an action plan for the sustainable development of the Elbe estuary. The plan outlines three milestones which are adequate for the restoration of the estuary and the safeguarding of seaward access to the port. This concept is based on:
  • Hydraulic engineering measures to dissipate the incoming tidal energy at the mouth of the estuary
  • Establishment of shallow water areas
  • Sediment management optimization
The plan was presented in 2008 and is constantly further developed. Additionally, an integrated management plan for Natura 2000 areas was finished in 2012.

Mitigation measures

"Kreetsand" pilot project: expected creation of 42 ha of shallow water area by 2013 (© HPA)