DKK 211m EU grant strengthens Esbjerg’s role in European infrastructure
At the end of 2022, Port Esbjerg received a triple-digit million kroner grant from the European Commission for a project to deepen the fairway from 9.3 to 12.8 metres. Having a deeper fairway will consolidate Port Esbjerg’s position in Europe, its strategic importance as a NATO maritime hub and as a centre for the green transition.
Port Esbjerg got a big Christmas present in December when the European Commission and the EU’s infrastructure fund, Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), awarded the Port a DKK 211m grant to deepen the fairway, so even larger ships will be able to call at the port. The CEF invests in projects to establish, upgrade and improve European infrastructure.
The DKK 211m grant will consolidate Port Esbjerg’s position, not only in Denmark but also Europe-wide, as an appointed Ten-T port. This means that it is part of the Trans-European Transport Network.
“Traditionally, Danish ports are relatively small by European standards, but some of them grow to a relevant level. The case of Port Esbjerg illustrates that the European Commission has realised how important it is to have a fully developed, coherent European network. And that some of the ports here in Denmark also contribute in a European perspective,” says Jakob Svane, Head of Secretariat at Danish Shipbrokers and Port Operators.
The plan is that by the end of 2024, the channel is to be deepened from 9.5 to 12.8 metres. The greater depth is necessary for the port to meet NATO requirements. Furthermore, it will be an advantage in the context of installing more wind power in the North Sea and for bulk and automobile imports.A sand dredger like this will be in operation when the port begins to deepen the fairway.
Decisive step for NATO and the green transition
The agreement to classify Port Esbjerg as a NATO port was signed in August. This means that, in future, it will be easier and faster for NATO to send even more military equipment and personnel to Denmark. However, in order to meet the requirements as a NATO port, Port Esbjerg will need to deepen the fairway and extend the railway line, among other things. Therefore, it was entirely appropriate for Port Esbjerg to apply for funding, and CEO Dennis Jul Pedersen was in charge of the application.
“Our size and geographical location make us attractive for the allied forces, and we’ll obviously do everything we can to meet the requirements that our new role demands. We’re therefore very pleased that we’ll now be able to deepen the fairway,” says Jul Pedersen.
The deeper fairway will also play a key role in the green transition, because the components for offshore wind turbines just keep getting bigger and bigger, and so do the vessels.
“The vessels used in the industry continue to increase in size, and we must be able to provide the necessary capacity. In other words, it’s great that the facilities will be improved, both for foundations and for wind turbines, and especially when the next generation of ships begin to call at the ports,” says Mikkel Gleerup, CEO of Cadeler A/S, a company specialising in the transport and installation of foundations and offshore wind turbines.
He adds that safety will also improve when the navigation conditions are improved, as it will give more leeway to work with.
Port Esbjerg becoming an attractive alternative
In the auto industry, they are also excited about the fact that Port Esbjerg will now deepen the fairway to 12.8 metres, because they experience the same trend that ships continue to increase in size.
“Everybody knows that the green transition must be accelerated. And like everything else in the maritime sector, we’re also seeing tonnages getting bigger and bigger and that units shipped are increasing in numbers and size. We need to carry as much as possible in every single transport,” says Henrik Otto Jensen, Managing Director and owner of Niels Winther & Co and Scandinavian Auto Logistics A/S, which handle auto imports at Port Esbjerg.
And the larger the ships, the deeper they sit. Still, a deepened fairway is good news at more than the practical level. It also places the industry in a good position relative to the competition, because Port Esbjerg will now become a realistic alternative to northern continental ports such as Hamburg and Antwerp, which is where the large ocean liners traditionally arrive.
“Esbjerg will now start operating as an actual hub like them, because we will be able to accommodate the big ships,” says Henrik Otto Jensen, emphasising that Port Esbjerg will also be an attractive alternative due to its efficient operations and short waiting times.