Good transport links, a thriving business environment and direct access to the sea were always going to make the port of Bremerhaven a good candidate for offshore wind-energy activities. But it is the port’s efficient maritime infrastructure and the cluster structures in the surrounding areas that have allowed it to consolidate its position as the industry’s leading port in the North Sea.
Over the past few years, global wind-power industry players such as foundations specialist WeserWind Offshore Construction Georgsmarienhütte, turbine suppliers Areva Wind and Repower Systems and component manufacturer Power Blades have established production sites as well as research and development centres in Bremerhaven. This has enabled the area to develop not only a broad understanding of offshore wind, but also a knowledge exchange and transfer system that is unparalleled in Europe. Today, more than 3,000 people work in this sector in Bremerhaven.
Bremenports — the port’s infrastructure management company — now has plans to construct a dedicated offshore terminal comprising a quay wall of approximately 500 metres that is suitable for two or three berths. The Offshore Terminal Bremerhaven will use a reclaimed land area of about 25 hectares directly by the river Weser. Construction is planned to start in the summer of 2014, once approval of the plan is published, with operations due to start in 2016.
The construction of an integrated, large-scale offshore terminal in Bremerhaven will support local and regional activities within the context of this industrial cluster. It will also boost new investments
in the sector. South of the future offshore terminal, more than 200 hectares of industrial area are ready for further development.
A large area is under development to host component production. The Bremerhaven offshore terminal aims to establish itself as the transport interface between local production and construction sites and offshore wind farms in the North Sea. The terminal will be built so as to ensure that inland waterway ships can be handled as smoothly as sea-going vessels. The terminal will operate 24/7, 365 days of the year, regardless of weather or tidal conditions. It will also function as a flood-protection line integrated into the dike.
The offshore terminal will act as a goods-handling zone for offshore wind industry manufacturers located in the Bremerhaven area. Pre-assembled wind turbines, alongside the export and import of components directly from the production sites, can be handled via this efficient entry and exit port facility with deep-sea conditions. The offshore terminal will be well connected to the manufacturing sites but also integrated in the local and external transport network.
In the absence of a dedicated offshore terminal at present, Bremenports and other players in the Port of Bremerhaven have come up with smaller-scale interim solutions to handle offshore equipment.
Companies producing turbines, foundations and blades have already established a manufacturing base in Bremerhaven. These heavy components cannot be handled on regular quay walls. The tripods for the 400MW Global Tech I offshore wind farm, for example, weigh 850 tonnes each. A typical offshore wind turbine weighs more than 400 tonnes. These loads need dedicated terminal infrastructure.
Bremerhaven decided to build a heavyweight quay wall in the southern part of the old fishery port back in 2008, the so-called Labrador quay. The city state of Bremen also constructed new quays: two quay walls with space for two ships and an ability to carry seven tonnes per square metre. But it was clear that the Labrador quay alone could not handle the demand that was forecast for the coming years and beyond.
The global financial crisis of 2009 offered an opportunity to use some of the space on the southern part of the container terminal following the reduction of container-handling activities. The local container terminal operator, Eurogate, rented out some space to utility and developer RWE Innogy for the storage, pre-assembly and handling of offshore-wind equipment.
Container handling increased again in 2011-12, but RWE Innogy is still using 400 metres of the quay wall to deliver the equipment for the Nordsee Ost project, 35 kilometres north of the German island of Helgoland. Further projects are already tendered and might follow.
Additional capacity was created on the ABC Peninsula, an area usually reserved for the storage and handling of cars — Bremerhaven handles more than two million cars every year. The city of Bremen and BLG Logistics Group prepared the infrastructure for the handling of offshore wind equipment for projects such as Global Tech I and Borkum West II.
At both temporary structures, the container terminal and the former car terminal, the soil was strengthened to allow installation vessels such as the Innovation or the Victoria Mathias to jack up in the Port of Bremerhaven and load the heavy equipment on to the ships.
Moving forward, the Offshore Terminal Bremerhaven will provide a long-term solution for this industry that is able to meet storage and pre-assembly demands. It help cut costs between production on shore and installation at sea.
Construction of the terminal, including compensation measures and planning costs, is estimated to total around €180 million. The city of Bremerhaven is working on road access for the terminal. The heavyweight track between the terminal and the manufacturers’ production sites will play a crucial role.
The regional airport of Luneort, which is located between the manufacturing sites and the future terminal, will be shut down to allow construction to go ahead in 2014. The former runway will form part of the future heavyweight access road to the terminal. Another heavyweight quay wall will be built in the terminal backyard to allow delivery of heavy structures such as tripods.
The Offshore Terminal Bremerhaven aims to make the most of its short distance from the North Sea, its ability to effectively use the tight weather windows and its location near manufacturing and delivery sites. The companies that operate in this sector need the terminal to help deliver the German government’s energy revolution, the Energiewende, over the coming years.
It is widely accepted that offshore wind energy has a crucial contribution to make to global standards for climate protection. Most offshore wind development is forecast to take place in northern Europe. In the light of this, Bremerhaven and the region around the river Weser have the potential to become one of Europe’s leading offshore hubs.