Port of Hamburg, Germany

General View of the North End of Hamburg Harbor.

General View of the North End of Hamburg Harbor. GGA Image ID # 1425e97838

Hamburg is, by far, the most important port in the German Republic. Its yearly commerce is slightly in excess of the combined total traffic of all other German seaports. Its trade is not only greater in volume and value but it is also more diversified and widespread than that of any domestic rival.

The port's rise to the preeminent position of one of the world's greatest entrepôts is due to a combination of political and economic factors, sagaciously utilized by successive administrations.

The city early procured political freedom from the hampering influence of selfish and greedy overlords and as a self-governing city state was able to devote its entire energy toward encouraging trade and enlarging or improving the natural strategic advantages with which nature had endowed it.

Recognizing the imperative necessity that the Elbe be kept open to the fleets of the world if commerce were to flourish, the city gained control of the river and, at a time when “robber-barons” were exacting exorbitant tolls on other waterways, permitted shipping to traverse this estuary unmolested.

Political autonomy became an important asset when the separate Germanic States were amalgamated into the German Empire. Hamburg readily entered the body politic, but it determinedly resisted the pressure exerted upon it to enter the Zollverein or customs union, since the raising of a customs barrier would undoubtedly have been detrimental to its transshipment trade and to certain industries which had been established there. By using its previous political status and its obvious importance to Germany as a wedge, it was able to force a compromise for a free-port zone, a concession which has been of prime importance in the growth of the port.

Probably no port in Europe has a more advantageous geographic location. Lying as it does near the mouth of the Elbe River, Hamburg is provided with an unexcelled medium of communication with the densely populated and highly industrialized zones of central Europe that form the heart of its hinterland.

Five main lines of the German National Railway radiating from the port serve to augment the traffic lanes provided by the inland waterway system and make contact with points in the tributary area not otherwise accessible.

The rail lines supply express service to practically all parts of the Republic and, through connecting foreign lines, with other countries of central and southern Europe.

It is because of these rail and water connections and the low rates which prevail that Hamburg is able to compete on a favorable basis with Mediterranean and Čiº ports in territory which might otherwise be considered entirely tributary to the latter.

Its proximity to the Baltic and Scandinavian countries, with which it interchanges hundreds of thousands of tons of cargo annually, is the prime factor in the development of its extensive transshipment traffic. Hamburg has become the center of this trade principally because it is the nearest ocean port of major importance having direct services to the markets of the world, a nearness enhanced by the Kaiser Wilhelm, or Kiel, Canal which intersects the Jutland Peninsula at the mouth of the Elbe and which lowers passage time between the North and Baltic Seas by about 24 hours.

No discussion of the port of Hamburg would be complete without mention of the spirit of cooperation which prevails between private interests and the port officials.

In a port which is State owned and managed efficiency is to be expected in the operating personnel, but the esprit de corps at Hamburg extends beyond the employees of the State and includes all the private operators, such as the stevedores, bargemen, draymen, warehousemen, tugboat companies, steamship lines, freight forwarders, and others.

The cooperation between State and private interests is very close, and all work together for the advancement of the port's interests. Trade organizations, financial interests, and labor all have a voice in the management of the port, and in event disagreement arises the disputants may present their cases for settlement to a court of arbitration.

The cohesion of the many different organizations and the suppression of personal interests for the good of the whole are worthy of highest commendation.

Hamburg apparently considers that its future lies in the port, and consequently everything is subordinated to its welfare.

The government and regulation of the port are vested in the Senate, which in turn has delegated its authority to several separate boards, each of which supervises one of the principal functions of the port.

All matters of policy or recommendations of serious purport are brought before the Senate, whose decisions are final and without appeal. Since the entire harbor area is the property of the State, no private interests can balk projects promulgated for the good of the community as a whole. Port charges are maintained at as low a level as is possible and are predicated principally upon the wage scale of port labor. All receipts from port operation are turned over to the State treasury, which budgets all of the city's expenditures. Any deficit in operating cost of the harbor is met by the State in the form of deficiency appropriations. No attempt is made to make a profit on actual port operations as port costs must be reduced to a minimum to permit of competition with Rotterdam and Antwerp, both of which have cheaper labor and are assisted directly or indirectly by their national Governments.

The city has been fortunate in its succession of efficient administrators, who have been gifted with the foresight to overcome the chief obstacle in the path of international prominence—the lack of space for expansion. Then, too, the choice of the open-basin method of construction, in preference to the closed-dock system, has proved of inestimable value, for only with unhampered movement of ships independent of the vagaries of the tide could the limited space available be used to its utmost efficiency.

One of the fundamental causes for the growth of Hamburg's commerce is the intense industrial and agricultural development of that portion of its hinterland accessible by inland waterways. Manufactured products find their egress to world markets and imported raw materials are transported to interior industries through the medium of the Elbe, its tributaries, and connecting canals, which serve the southern, central, and western portions of Germany. However, -
the richest industrial areas of Germany, namely, the Rhine, Ruhr, and Saar Walleys, are not now connected by inland waterways with this greatest of German outlets.

At the present time the bulk of the products originating in these latter areas, destined for foreign consumption, passes out through the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam. It is believed abroad that were there a cheaper means of transportation than by the rail lines connecting these centers of industry with the Elbe ports, both the Rhine Valley and German North Sea ports would profit considerably.


The port of Hamburg, which is situated in the northwestern part of Germany on the Elbe River about 65 miles from its mouth, is a part of the Free City of Hamburg, one of the States comprising the German Republic. The area of the State is approximately 160 square miles, of which the city occupies about 52 square miles, the remainder being divided into 3 smaller municipalities and 28 rural districts.

Included in this area is the Ritzebuettel district, at the mouth of the Elbe, which contains Hamburg's outport, Cuxhaven. The State of Hamburg is surrounded by Prussia, that portion on the northern bank of the Elbe, which is by far the largest, being bounded by Schleswig Holstein and that on the southern bank by Hannover. The population, in 1928, was 1,208,439, of which 1,127,834 resided in the city of Hamburg.

View of the Hansahafen, Port of Hamburg, Germany.

View of the Hansahafen, Port of Hamburg, Germany. GGA Image ID # 1425eff21c


Entrance to the port is effected by means of the Elbe River. A vessel approaching the mouth of the river will first sight, in order, the four light vessels, Elbe I or outer light vessel, Elbe II, Elbe III, and Elbe IV, all of which are painted red with their names on their sides.

These lights serve to indicate the channel which lies between the Scharhorn Riff, Neuwerker Watt, Kleiner Vogelsand, and Steilsand on the south side of the entrance and the Grosser Vogel, Gelbsand, and Hakensand on the north side.

The river, which almost forms a figure S between Cuxhaven and Hamburg, is easy to navigate and the channel is well marked with the uniform German system of red spar buoys with letters on the starboard and black conical buoys with numbers on the port.

The river, between the sea and Cuxhaven, has a navigable depth of about 37 feet at high water neap tides and about 26 feet at low water spring tides.

Between Cuxhaven and Hamburg the minimum depth is 25 1/2 feet at low water spring tides, which have a rise of from 7 1/2 to 11 feet. The channel is now being deepened to 40 feet at mean high water. The width of the channel ranges from 660 to 1,300 feet.

The maintenance of the river is under the control of the German Government which relieved the port of Hamburg of that responsibility in 1921, after the port had spent approximately $40,000,000 on improvements.

General View of Hamburg Harbor.

General View of Hamburg Harbor. GGA Image ID # 142602ac6b


The harbor of Hamburg is composed of a number of open sub
harbors or basins excavated from the banks of the river. These
basins are divided into two classes—those for ocean-going vessels
and those for barges and other river and harbor craft.

The barge harbors virtually surround the deeper draft harbors and are con
nected with them and with each other by means of locks and canals.
In most cases the channels of communication between them and the
deep-water basins are separate and apart from the entrances frequented by ocean vessels, thus limiting the possibilities, of accident and expediting the flow of traffic by increasing the flexibility of interchange.

The port as a whole is divided into two main sections, the free port and customs port. The former contains all of the deep-water harbors, with the exception of the coal harbor (Kohlenschiffhafen), the Maakenwärderhafen, and a portion of the Niederhafen.

It also contains the following barge harbors and their connecting canals: Ilugenbergerhafen, Rodewischhafen, Travehafen, Spreehafen, Saalehafen, and Moldauhafen. The remainder of the barge harbors together with the yacht harbor (Jachthafen) and the two basins mentioned above under the free port comprise the customs port.

Section of the Floating Customs Barrier at the Port of Hamburg.

Section of the Floating Customs Barrier at the Port of Hamburg. GGA Image ID # 1426f3cb19

The entire port, including both free and customs ports, is again divided into four zones for administrative purposes. Falling within these zones are numerous districts whose names are reminiscent of the time when the south bank and its adjacent islands were utilized for agriculture.

The total water area of the port is approximately 1,965 acres, of which the deep-water basins including the yacht harbor contain 1,250 âcres. The water frontage on these basins is approximately 30 miles, practically all of which is developed to accommodate ships.

Ships in a Basin in Hamburg Harbor.

Ships in a Basin in Hamburg Harbor. GGA Image ID # 1427a2870a


There are numerous passenger ferries traversing the various parts of the harbor. They form one of the principal means of communication between the residential portion of the city on the north bank, and the harbor facilities and industrial district within the free port on the opposite side of the river.

The only car ferry in the port is that one which crosses the Koehl brand, connecting the Ross-Neuhoff district with the Waltershof district. Due to a treaty with Prussia, no bridge can be built across this waterway, and consequently this ferry comprises the sole means of linking the rail systems of the main portion of the port with the facilities in the Waltershof district.

The two vessels which are operated in this service are peculiarly adapted for use on this waterway, in that they are completely symmetrical with twin screws at both ends, thus precluding the necessity for turning around when approaching their slips. Each can accommodate six railroad cars in addition to other vehicular and passenger traffic. They are also constructed to cope with the changes in water levels because of fluctuations of the tide.

Interior View of a Quay Shet of the Hamburg-American Line at the Port of Hamburg.

Interior View of a Quay Shet of the Hamburg-American Line at the Port of Hamburg. GGA Image ID # 1427c56d72


The Elbe tunnel, which was opened to traffic in November, 1911, at a cost of $2,550,000, connects the north bank of the river at the St. Pauli Landing Stages with the industrial district in Steinwarder. Because both entrances are located in areas that are intensely utilized, it was practicably impossible to construct inclined approaches to the tunnel; instead, two shafts, each 72 feet in diameter and 77 feet deep, were sunk to meet it.

Each shaft is equipped with six electric elevators, two of which have a capacity of 10 tons, two of 6 tons, and two of 2.4 tons each. The two last named are used for passenger traffic and the other four for vehicles.

The tunnel, 1,470 feet long from shaft to shaft, is divided into two tubes, one serving northbound and the other southbound traffic. Each tube has a roadway 6 feet wide, bordered on each side by walks 4 3/4 feet wide.

When ice or heavy fog impedes ferry traffic, the tunnel is closed to vehicular traffic during rush hours, at which times as many as 70,000 people can utilize it in one day. There is no charge assessed pedestrians; vehicles pay according to a set schedule.

Interior View of Fruit Shed "C" at the Port of Hamburg.

Interior View of Fruit Shed "C" at the Port of Hamburg. GGA Image ID # 14281ff2e8

The Port Captain’s Office

The port captain's office supervises the entrance and clearance of all ships and is responsible for the prevention and alleviation of all congestion in the harbor. The port captain has four subordinate harbor masters, one for each of the zones previously described.

Each harbor master is responsible to the port captain for the allocation of berths to ships not using the quays, the pilots and pilotage of ships in his area, the movement of all river and harbor craft, the superintending of lights and buoys within his area, and the distribution of customs signals.

The port captain's office has nothing to do with the handling of cargo except that which passes over the Johannesbollwerk and Vorsetzen Quays, which are within the customs boundaries.

At these two quays it collects wharfage and craneage charges on those portions not leased to private concerns. It also collects fees for the use of the St. Pauli landing stages.

View of Hamburg Harbor Showing Shipbuilding Activity.

View of Hamburg Harbor Showing Shipbuilding Activity. GGA Image ID # 14283c4614


Another intermediary office, the police department, has charge of maintaining order within the port. Formerly the duties of patrolling the water and bridges were exercised by the so-called “Blue police.”

Since the war, however, several companies of barrack police have been installed in the port to quell extraordinary disturbances and prevent pilferage. A sub-office of this department is the harbor-inspection office, which carries out the regulations for the prevention of accidents.


The regulations of the harbor relating to sanitation and quarantine are enforced by the sanitary office.


Since the port of Hamburg has an extensive “free port,” customs and customs regulations have but little control over ocean shipping. This is particularly true because ocean-going ships, with the exception of those engaged in coastwise traffic and those carrying coal, are not permitted to discharge or load cargo outside the free port.

The free port is guarded by high wire fences on the land side and by floating palisades on the water side. The openings in the palisades are patrolled by boats. Craft leaving the free port must stop at the customs control offices stationed at every entry into customs territory, where they are subjected to close surveillance by the guards.

A similar operation takes place on trucks and trains passing the customs barrier. To expedite the movement of large ships, all pilots are sworn customs officers charged with the responsibility of seeing that the ships over which they have control do not carry on illicit trade, along the shore on the trip up or down the Elbe.

This precludes the necessity for customs inspection and the sealing of hatches upon entry and clearance. Barges entering or leaving the port with cargo in bond coming from or destined to bonded warehouses in Germany or for a foreign country must be sealed or carry a customs inspector with them.

On similar shipments by rail, the cars are sealed before they leave the free port.

Ships leaving one portion of the free port and passing through customs territory to reach another portion of the free port, and ships entering or clearing with a pilot, must fly the black and white diagonal customs flag so that they will not be stopped by the customs patrol.


Quarantine officials are at the disposal of ships between the hours of 7 a. m. and 10 p.m. Special arrangements must be made for ships entering outside these hours. All vessels arriving at Hamburg or lying in the harbor are subject to the inspection and surveillance of the sanitary office, as provided for by the sanitary regulations.

Persons suffering from epidemic diseases, as well as fever, cholera, leprosy, and scurvy, may leave the ship only after inspection by the sanitary officers and with their permission. The captain of the ship must notify the sanitary office of all internal diseases that may have developed on board during the stay in port. The harbor police will take charge of these notices.

The signals used for summoning doctors or police in the event of sudden illness or accident on board a ship in the harbor are: By day, the usual distress signal, consisting of a flag hoisted on an upright pole, or a large sheet fastened thereto, with its free ends tied into a knot or fastened together with cords, so as to prevent it from fluttering freely; at night, continuous, rapid ringing of the ship's bell, repeated at short intervals; also, if possible, three white lights grouped together.

The captain of the ship, or a member of the crew appointed for that purpose, must furnish all official information requested by the sanitary officers when the latter make their inspection. All cases of death and illness that occurred during the voyage, as well as of all diseases still present on arrival at the harbor, or that develop during the stay of the ship, must be reported.

The sanitary officials are authorized to disinfect, vaccinate, and carry out all other measures they deem necessary in the interest of public health. The same regulations apply to the order and cleanliness, ventilation, heating and arrangement of the crew's quarters, and to food and drinking water.

Ships flying a yellow flag from the foremast, in conformity with the regulations regarding the control of the sanitary police authorities over a ship entering Hamburg, must not be boarded.


Immediately upon arrival in the port, the captain of every inbound ocean vessel must submit to the proper police officers a list showing separately the members of the crew, passengers who are not subjects of the German Government, not having a passport and a German visa—i.e., stowaways, deported persons, persons working their way, and those without funds.

Such persons who have no passports with a German visa will not be permitted to land until authorized by the police officials. If any persons on board be not of the white race, the document must include this information.

The captain of the ship is not permitted to land persons, not German subjects, who are or will be discharged in Hamburg, except when permitted to do so by the proper police authorities.

All persons permitted to land may come ashore at any time during the ship’s stay in the harbor. The officials in charge of port entries will issue the necessary instructions regarding the stay of undesirable persons.

The latter are placed provisionally under the surveillance of the superior officers of the ship. Both the captain of the ship and undesirable passengers will be given a written order prohibiting the landing of the latter.

If the officers of the ship agree to transport such undesirables back to their home ports, immediate notice thereof must be given to the police authorities. The police authorities must be notified promptly of all deserters, and other persons who have landed without permission.

Any person leaving the ship against the orders of the police, or leaving the ship ahead of the specified time, must be reported promptly to the proper police authorities by the captain.

If any non-German subject violates the stipulations of his passport or of the police regulations, the shipowner is obliged to reimburse the expenses incurred in boarding, apprehending, and deporting the violator, and must meanwhile give security as specified by the proper police authorities.

Discharged passengers who are not German subjects are permitted to stay in Hamburg only after the officers of the ship or the steamship company have deposited the sum necessary for transportation back to their home ports and when there are no other objections to the stay of such passengers. Otherwise these persons must not be permitted to land, and the officers of the ship will be instructed to transport the undesirables back to their homes on board the same vessel.

For every non-German passenger who has landed without permission and is missing on departure, the captain of the ship must deposit as security the sum of 100 marks, together with an additional amount equal to the average cost of the return transportation.

The sum remaining, after deducting from the total amount all incidental costs and fees, will be reimbursed, after evidence has been submitted that the missing person has left Germany.

In the case of vessels touching at Hamburg regularly, the nature of the security to be furnished may be regulated by agreement between the police authorities and the steamship company or its agent.

Violations of these provisions are punishable by a maximum fine of 150 marks, or imprisonment for six weeks, in conformity with the harbor law, unless the general penal laws provide for greater penalties.

General Local Regulations

The official hours of the port are from 8 a. m. to 4 p. m. The following holidays are observed: New Year’s day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Labor Day (May 1), Ascension Day, Whit Monday, the third Wednesday in November, December 25 and 26.

The following regulations relating to ships in Hamburg harbor are excerpts from the harbor law and its amendments:

All vessels and craft in the harbor are subject to the provisions of the harbor law, its supplementary regulations, and to the ordinances of the port authorities and harbor police.

They are also subject to existing customs regulations and all subsequent ordinances made by the customs officials when within the customs harbor.

Vessels alongside the quays administered by the State are subject to the ordinances of the quay officials, in conformity with the provisions for the use of the quays.

Regulations for use of the public landing stages, as well as the instructions of officials and employees in charge of them, must be observed.


Captains of steamships must take care that other vessels are not endangered by the wave movements caused by their ships. In the harbor district north of the Elbe, steamships are not permitted to move under full steam except during the period of ice jams.

Steam-driven vessels must slow down when passing steam dredges, diving bells, pile drivers, and vessels engaged in salvaging. They should pass only on the side on which such vessels show a red ball by day and a red light over a white light by night.


Rubbish and waste on board ships must be segregated into combustible and incombustible materials. Combustible waste must be delivered to the garbage barges lying near the south bank of the Norderloch.

Incombustibles, such as ashes and slag, must be delivered at certain storage areas on the bank and deposited as directed by the overseer, near the anchoring place of the garbage vessels. Rubbish on ships must be moistened to prevent the spread of dust before it is collected and removed.

To throw or to let fall into the water any rubbish or waste or other substances which might pollute the harbor or obstruct navigation is prohibited. When loading and unloading ballast or other loose substances, tarpaulins or other similar devices should be used to prevent polluting the harbor.


At quays with sheds, steamships will be given preference over sailing vessels, and those steamships which belong to lines operating regular services to and from Hamburg, using the quays regularly, will be given preference over other ships. The ships of these lines will be assigned the same berths as far as possible. According to the commercial code, a master may berth at a quay at his customary loading or unloading place.


Much of the communication between the residential portion of the city and the free port is by means of boats, which necessitate the use of landing stages at all quays in the deep-water basins.

These stages had to be constructed in a manner to cope with the fluctuation in the levels of the water. In some places where the traffic is not great and where only small vessels ply, landing stairs leading to the lowest water level have been built, and in some instances iron pontoons and floating platforms are placed before these stairs.

Where the traffic is brisk, particularly at the points used by the ferryboats, this method was inadequate; hence movable bridges, supported by means of rollers on floating pontoons, were constructed. The slopes of these bridges depend upon the level of the tide.

The most important of these stages are the St. Pauli landing stages located on the north side of the Elbe, approximately opposite the Blohm and Voss shipbuilding yard.

The stages are really a number of smaller stages combined into a larger one which is approximately 1,400 feet long and 66 feet wide. Its surface rises 6 feçt 4 inches above the water level. At its rear are waiting accommodations, offices, luggage rooms, shops, and rest rooms, while on the dome above is a tall clock tower equipped with a tide gage indicating the level of the water in the harbor.

The eastern part of these landing stages carries an upper deck 660 feet long where passengers can be discharged from the promenade deck of ocean-going vessels.


Hamburg as a coal-bunkering station increases in importance yearly, owing to the large number of lines calling at the port and to the fact that it usually is the last port of call of many ships.

English coal, Durham unscreened I and II, and West Hartley predominate the market in Hamburg, although Westphalian unscreened is also largely used.

For lots of 200 tons or less a price agreement exists, whereas for larger quantities the market is open.

Due to the great extent of the harbor and in an effort to speed up the turn-around of a vessel, practically all bunkering is done overside from barges by means of mechanical grabs and bunkering machines.

This accommodation obviates the necessity for a ship changing berth and moving alongside a coal-bunkering station. Methods of delivery vary considerably.

Quantities up to 250 tons are delivered in donkey barges which are equipped with winches and hoisting baskets. The rate of bunkering by this method is from 200 to 250 tons for a shift of 8 hours.

The number of baskets are counted and the average weight of coal per basket is ascertained; from this is determined the amount of coal delivered. The donkey barges are largely owned by firms trading in coal and by companies specializing in coal bunkering.

Many of the shipping companies which have vessels calling regularly
at Hamburg buy coal in barge lots.

For bunkering large quantities of coal, special bunkering devices with automatic weighing appliances are used. Some of these machines can bunker from both sides of a ship simultaneously, and their bunkering capacities run as high as 225 tons an hour; trimming and shifting of coal in barges reduces this to 150 and 175 tons an hour. The three principal companies which specialize in the bunkering of coal are the Kohlenheber, G. m. b. H., the Kohlenstaurei,
G. m. b. H., and Reinecke & Bremer. The second named firm is engaged principally in the discharge of colliers and has machines that operate at the rate of 250 to 300 tons an hour.

Sauber Gebr., who deal in British coal, operate about 50 barges for bunkering purposes, and have machines that can bunker at the rate of 120 to 150 tons an hour. The storage area for this company's coal is in the Kohlenschiffhafen, where about 10,000 tons of coal are usually maintained.

Another important coal-handling concern is the Schiffahrt und Kohlen G. m. b. H. This company normally maintains 10,000 to 15,000 tons of coal which is stored partly in the Kohlenschiffhafen and partly in barges in the Travehafen. This company operates 35 barges with a capacity of about 200 tons each.

The Raab Karcher-Thyssen G. m. b. H. handles both English and Westphalian coal, particularly the latter. It maintains about 15,000 tons of coal and operates 102 barges having an approximate capacity of 15,000 tons.

The Westfälishes Kohlenkontor Naht, Emschermann & Co. has a large storage plant in the Kohlenschiffhafen where from 15,000 to 20,000 tons of coal are usually stored. This company operates several donkey barges and owns 120 lighters with capacities varying from 100 to 250 tons each. Two or three days' notice is required for the delivery of 500 tons of bunker coal. The code address is Kohlenkontor.

The Kohlen-, Koksund Anthracit-Werke can supply English bunker coal at their plant on the Reiherstieg, which is equipped with cranes and grabs, having a discharging capacity of approximately 4,000 tons in 18 hours.

The Hamburg-American Line has a bunkering elevator which it uses for coaling large trans-Atlantic liners. This machine can handle coal up to 65 feet above the level of the water and can bunker on both sides of a large vessel without shifting.


The principal oil-bunkering facilities are in the Petroleumhafen, and on Bubendey Ufer, which is on the south bank of the Elbe adjacent to the Petroleumhafen.

This basin, which was opened in 1914, has a water area of approximately 3,300,000 square feet and adjacent land of about 4,600,000 square feet for storage tanks, pipelines, and pumping houses.

The length of the quayage in the basin is 7,055 feet. The Bubendey Ufer is equipped with two piers with a depth alongside of approximately 40 feet at mean high water, which permits the larger ocean liners to come alongside.

Despite the fact that these facilities are available, much of the oil bunkering in the port is done by means of barges, making it unnecessary for ships to shift
berth, and increasing the rapidity of turn-around.


The port of Cuxhaven, which lies on the south bank at the mouth of the Elbe about 64 miles below Hamburg, comprises a considerable part of the Ritzebuettel district, a detached part of the Free State of Hamburg. It is not equipped for handling, nor does it handle, overseas commerce to any great extent, but is utilized principally as a depot for overseas passengers and as a center for the fish industry.

It is also used as a harbor of refuge, and as a pilot, signaling, and
quarantine station.

Although the port is very old, it was not used until comparatively recently for anything but a harbor of refuge. The Ritzbuettel district was obtained by Hamburg in 1394, but no effort was made to develop a port there until a plan was evolved to utilize Cuxhaven as an embarkation and disembarkation point for overseas passengers and as a base for the deep-sea fishing industry in the North Sea.

The principal obstacles to be overcome in the creation of a harbor for ocean ships were the encroachment of the Elbe and the sea and the silting of dredged areas. The latter is still a serious problem, as the river deposits as much as 10 feet of silt per annum, despite the fact that an extensive system of dikes and retaining walls has been constructed.

The harbor now has a total water area of 151 acres, of which 1474 acres are available for ocean vessels. The total quayage in the port amounts to about 14,245 linear feet, of which 12,275 feet have sufficient depth alongside to accommodate ocean vessels. Most of the water area is included within three basins, viz, the Amerikahafen or Neuehafen, the Fischereihafen, and the Altehafen. The Amerikahafen in its entirety and parts of the Fischereihafen and Altehafen have been designated as a free zone, the total area of which is about 130 acres with approximately 8,807 linear feet of quayage and mooring berths.

The largest basin in the port is the Amerikahafen, which contains about 100 acres. It was constructed to accommodate the largest passenger ships in the Hamburg trade and had been deepened to 40 feet at low water, but owing to the war it was never used for this purpose.

The present depths in this basin, due to silting, range from 15 to 24 feet at low water. No attempt has been made to reestablish the 40-foot depth, as it was found that large ships could be berthed at Glueckstadt with as much safety and at much less cost. At present this basin is used as a refuge by small craft, fishing vessels, and salvaged ships.

The Lentz quay, which forms its northern side, is equipped with five 3-ton electrically operated cranes, but these are used only in connection with salvaging operations, as little cargo is handled in the port.

The Fischereihafen, or “fishery harbor,” which is the busiest portion of the port, is about 3,200 feet long and ranges from 160 to 500 feet in width. Six fish sheds used for unloading and handling of fish have been constructed on the south bank.

These sheds, with the exception of shed No. 3, are 500 feet long and 65 feet wide. --All are 2-storied, the ground floors containing packing and refrigerating rooms while the second floors are used for offices and storage.

Behind these sheds are three auction halls, one hall for every two sheds, where the catches are auctioned off. The quays of the basin are of concrete and ships of 20 feet draft can be berthed at them. Mechanical equipment on the Fischereihafen consists of one 3-ton crane on the south bank and 17 electric winches.

The only other basin of any importance is the Altehafen, in which the depth is about 13 feet at low water. It is used for the general accommodation of vessels.

Overseas passenger steamers discharging or receiving passengers at
Cuxhaven berth at the Landungshöft, or “landing stage.” This facility is more than 1,200 feet long and is situated on the Elbe on the point of land separating the Amerikahafen and the Fischereihafen.

Immediately behind it are the customs examination halls and the new railway station with which it is connected by means of covered gangways.

The tidal range at Cuxhaven is somewhat greater than at Hamburg, the normal range being 9 feet 6inches. The greatest variation recorded was 27 feet 6 inches. Weather conditions are about the same as at Hamburg, although the weather at the mouth of the Elbe, due to its propinquity to the North Sea, is not as changeable.

Being a part of the Free State of Hamburg, the harbor is under the jurisdiction of the committee for trade, shipping, and industry, with the exception of the Fischereihafen, which is managed by the Fischmarkt G. m. b. H., a firm founded to handle the marketing of fish, the stock of which is owned entirely by the State of Hamburg. All harbor dues and regulations in force at Hamburg are also applicable at Cuxhaven.

The only company in the port capable of supplying bunker coal is the Westfälische Kohlenkontor, which can furnish amounts up to 1,000 tons. The premises of this company are on the Lenzkai, where vessels up to 5,000 tons can be berthed.

No facilities are available for docking seagoing ships aside from fishing trawlers. Bugsier, Reederei & Bergungs A. G. maintain a salvage station and two salvage tugs at the port.

The larger of these is the Seefalke, a vessel of 570 gross tons, equipped with oil engines capable of developing 4,200 horsepower. This craft is the most modern of the extensive fleet of this company and is fitted with modern appliances.

Cuxhaven's commerce, aside from receipts and shipments of fish, is negligible. During 1927 the receipts from Hamburg and smaller ports on the Elbe below Hamburg totaled 27,322 tons, of which 10,341 tons were general merchandise and 16,981 bulk cargo.

This tonnage was entirely for local consumption. Receipts of fish during the same year amounted to over 43,000 tons, while the number of overseas passengers arriving and departing was 22,696 and 34,615, respectively.

Port of Hamburg: Regaining Pre-War Trade (1922)

ONE of the most significant features of the present shipping situation In Europe Is the prosperity and the activity visible in the port of Hamburg. After becoming almost a dead port during the war, Hamburg is once again itself, and today is certainly the busiest port in Europe.

The continental editor of the "Liverpool Journal of Commerce.” who has recently examined the port, was struck with its comparative prosperity when considered with the other ports of Europe. Not only are the four large shipbuilding yards working with full staffs, building vessels of all sorts for Germany and other countries, and repairing many British vessels, but the shipping trade in the port is daily expanding, and the quay and warehouse accommodation is being extended to meet the new requirements of increased traffic and cargoes.

Before the war, Hamburg was a German port first of all. Today it is cosmopolitan. The American element Is very predominant in shipping circles, and the German flag is still crowded out by those of foreign nations. Incidentally the Hamburg companies are making some very useful combines with Home of the foreign countries—notably the United States.

Hamburg Is not crippled like so many continental porta by being under the control of the municipality. It is administered by a special port committee of shipping and businessmen, which is known as the Deputation for Handel Schlffahrt and Gewerle. Geographically the port is now in the best of positions, and its prosperity is due to the enterprise of the special port committee.

Although Hamburg is about sixty miles up the River Elbe from the North Sea, the condition of the river is so good that ocean liners can easily use the port. Furthermore, the Elbe is deep enough on the inland side of Hamburg to permit steamers of 1,000 tons to run as far as Prague in Bohemia. This gives Hamburg a big ocean trade and an important river trade from Central Europe. The Kiel Canal allows Hamburg to retain a good share of the Baltic trade.

There are now nearly twenty miles of quays where large ocean-going ships can be accommodated, and the entire extent of the port covers an area of 10,000 acres. The port as one sees it today is only about thirty-live years old. The Segel-hafen dock is 1,51S yards long and 328 yards wide. There are ninety miles of railway line in the docks of the port.

Figures for the last year show a greater number of ships using the port of Hamburg than the two river ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam. In the year 1913 the shipping tonnage In the port totaled 22.000.000 tons. The port officials, in view of the present political situation, are not in a hurry to publish figures, which may show big totals for 1921, but un-official estimates show the traffic for last year to be equal to prewar trade.

Hamburg Harbor Developments (1922)

The Senate of Hamburg has now published the comprehensive petition which the Senate addressed to the Reichsrat (Federal Council), last September in reference to the question of the extension of the area of the harbor and the creation of a Greater Hamburg. The preamble states that the matter concerns the maintenance of the competitive capacity of the harbor in relation to foreign world ports.

According to the Frankfurter Zeitung, the petition points out in the first place that the area of the harbor district was extended from 72 acres to 3,100 acres during the 40 years between 1874 and 1914, but notwithstanding this expansion the harbor is inadequate to meet the requirements of ocean shipping, while the existing area of the State of Hamburg does not offer sufficient space for the necessary extensions of the port.

It is mentioned that the total tonnage of the Hamburg shipping traffic in the month of August, 1921, has already reached 78.3 percent of the total traffic in the same month In 1913. The reasons which the present extent of the traffic already renders necessary a rapid extension of the harbor installations are the increased accommodation required by the transshipment traffic and the growth in the staple traffic.

A new impetus to the transshipment trade has been imparted by the merchandise traffic with Czechoslovakia, which is expected still further to increase.

A great part in the matter is also played by the industrial district in the harbor. The area of the State no longer offers the possibility for the establishment of industrial works on sites where deep water accommodation for ocean ships is available, and as a consequence, a number of applications for promising undertakings have had to be refused.

As a special matter attention is drawn to the pressing necessity for the provision of housing accommodation for the harbor workers, the number of whom is expected considerably to increase in the future.

The territory which the State of Hamburg desires to incorporate within its area in order to proceed with the contemplated developments, it is stated, would increase the total area by about 483 square miles, or practically double the State territory at the present time. For this purpose it would be necessary for Prussia to surrender to Hamburg large portions of the districts of Storman, Piuneberg, Jork, Harburg, and Luxemburg, while the population of Hamburg would thereby be raised from 1,000,000 to 1,500,000.

The only question now to be settled is as to whether Prussia will feel disposed to adopt a sufficiently accommodating attitude in the matter as to permit of the great expansion in shipping and industrial works, which is in contemplation at Hamburg.

Pre-War Prosperity Returning to Hamburg (1922)

At the present time the mark is the prime factor upon which trade revival in Europe is concentrated. The countries of Europe are financially inter dependent and there has never in history been a more striking demonstration of the artificial value of money than that presented by the position of Germany in Europe today.

The majority of other European countries are suffering from trade slumps, with their accompaniment of unemployment and dead markets, while Germany is working in a crescendo towards her pre-war prosperity, only hindered by her inability to purchase raw materials.

A visit to such a port as Hamburg is illuminating. In Hamburg, there are no working classes. All classes are at work, the directors usually harder than anyone else. The continental editor of the Liverpool Journal of Commerce, who has recently been visiting some of the leading shipyards, was frequently invited to meet the management at 8:30 a. m. Their working day continues till 7 p. m.

To talk with them is to find them informed not only of the minutest detail of their own works, or their own industry, but in the industrial development of Germany as a whole.

The spirit of combine is far more marked than in England and America, where combine usually refers to trade union organization. Though trade unions exist in Germany, as elsewhere, there is far less feeling of restriction of output because one class has not the idea of being exploited at another’s pleasure.

Hugo Stinnes’ recent expression on this subject was to the effect that labor had the right to obtain from any industry all that that industry could afford. It is surely proof that the work people are satisfied that they are getting this treatment, when one considers the way men like Stinnes moved about unprotected and unmolested during the Revolution of 1918.

The masters do not spare themselves and the men not spare themselves. If the mark recovers Germany will be able to buy raw material to carry on her great industrial Her output being high will help her to keep prices of production low. She has gained a great market through her 1ow prices due to the exchange.

American Line Terminal In Hamburg (1922)


AN AMERICAN steamship terminal of the most modern type is to be erected at Hamburg, Germany, built with American capital, equipped with American machinery, and used exclusively by American steamers.

Adjacent to the Hamburg American piers, the American terminal will excel them in equipment and efficiency, and will rate as the finest in Germany. It will be built on the Ross Quay, one of the largest dock structures at Hamburg that remained incomplete at the beginning of the war, of which the American Line has taken a long lease. It will have a total length of nearly half a mile, with depth of water alongside to accommodate the largest passenger liners now operated in the American Line's service from New York.

Sheds will be built of concrete and steel, 656 feet long and having a ground floor area of 2 1/4 acres. The latest type electric cranes will be installed, and trackage will be laid to connect the terminal with through rail lines by which American products will be moved to interior points in Germany, and to Czechoslovakia, Rumania and other central European countries. The ships that will use this new terminal are now docking temporarily at piers secured on hire from the civic authorities of Hamburg.

In pursuance of its policy to establish itself permanently In Hamburg, the American Line has bought a building in the steamship section for its own occupancy as German headquarters, and has sent out an American steamship expert, Mr. Hennan Winter of New York, as resident manager.

The American Service, which is thus establishing itself in Hamburg, was the first to open direct passenger and freight communication between the United States and Germany following the war. The first ship placed on the route, the Manchuria, left New York on December 20, 1919, with passengers and a huge cargo of foodstuffs for the famished Germans. The Manchuria has continued to operate, with well-filled holds and cabins, on the Hamburg run ever since, with a sister ship, the Mongolia.

Recently the 17,000 ton British-built liner Minnekahda was transferred to the American flag and will be added to this service, to carry third class passengers. This ship will be ready In March, when a schedule of fortnightly saillng8 by the three large combination freight and passenger vessels will be adopted.

The distinctly freight fleet of the service in the past year has included two 12.000-ton American-built cargo carriers of the latest type, the Montana and the Montauk, which were purchased from the Shipping Board for this service, and a number of other freighters.

The business of the line is steadily growing in volume, says President Franklin.

The Port of Hamburg (1909)

Interesting View of Hamburg.

Interesting View of Hamburg. GGA Image ID # 1441e525c6

"Few ports in the world, if any, are equipped to handle merchandise more expeditiously and economically than Hamburg, and this despite a situation 75 nautical miles from the open sea.

For many centuries, the local government has made its first concern that of keeping its port facilities abreast of the commercial requirements of the times, and in so doing has. even assumed the responsibility and the cost of dredging and lighting the entire lower Elbe, although only a part of its shores is within the territory of this State.

The free city of Hamburg received a charter from Frederick Barbarossa on May 7, 1189, guaranteeing the right of free navigation on the lower Elbe, and upon this celebrated charter repose all subsequent claims to entire independence, which have been waived by the City only to the extent of enabling it to become a full and sovereign member of the Empire.

During the fleeting occupancy of Hamburg by Napoleon, he contemplated the strengthening of the commercial resources of the city by building a canal from Luebeck on the Baltic to the Elbe, and still other canals also connecting the Elbe, the Weser, the Ems, and the Rhein.

All of these canals, with the exception of the one from the Rhein to the Ems, now form parts of the great interior navigation system of Germany, which, together with Hamburg's position on the North Sea, facilitate the carrying on of a great commerce with the whole of northern and central Europe of which this city is the center.

A Partial View of the Free Port of Hamburg.

A Partial View of the Free Port of Hamburg. GGA Image ID # 144287c491

Upon the entrance of the State of Hamburg into the German customs union it became necessary to subject all goods entering the city for consumption to the payment of the same duties as were collected in other portions of the Empire.

To accomplish this result, and at the same time to preserve for its growing trade the freedom of centuries, the most important section of the harbor was set off as an immense bonded warehouse within which goods might be landed, stored, manufactured, and re-exported subject to no custom control whatever.

Within this zone, complete commercial freedom prevails, and it is only when goods from the Free Harbor pass the boundary line for immediate consumption that they become subject to the payment of German duties.

Thus, Hamburg remains a protectionist city in its capacity as a member of the Empire, while preserving its status as a free city in respect to its extensive transit trade.


View of Sandtor Bay, Hamburg.View of Sandtor Bay, Hamburg. GGA Image ID # 144299b6f6

The maximum depth of water in the Hamburg Harbor is 25.82 at low water, and 32.8 feet at medium high water. The maximum draft of vessels at present is about 31.16 feet. At ordinary high tide steamers of any size may enter the port, including such as draw 30 feet.

Numerous dry docks including one believed to be the largest in the world, patent slips, shipbuilding wharves and engine works enable ship owners to affect any repairs.

The quays are provided with cranes lifting burdens up to 150 tons, loading and unloading machinery, railroad tracks, and other modern appliances for the quick discharge of cargoes.

Harbors for river craft and convenient means of transferring cargoes from sea-going to river and coastwise vessels, exists now, and are being very greatly improved.

View of the Harbor of Hamburg.

View of the Harbor of Hamburg. GGA Image ID # 1442b1b845

During the winter, powerful ice breakers keep the channel open so that ships are able at all times to proceed up and down the river.

Merchandise is loaded and discharged either alongside the quays or amid stream. In the former case, according to a tariff of quay dues referred to below.

Bulk cargoes are always discharged and loaded in the river, while mixed cargoes are commonly discharged on the quay to obtain quick dispatch. Steamers with general cargoes often discharge in the river also, but the operation is necessarily slower than when the vessels are alongside, owing to the necessity of assorting packages according to marks and numbers, and the shifting of lighters.

When ships load from the quay side, the cargo is taken from the quay shed by the quay cranes and put into the ship ; or vice versa ; whereas, if the operation is performed in midstream, this work is performed by the ship's winches.

Busy Scene in Hamburg's Harbor.

Busy Scene in Hamburg's Harbor. GGA Image ID # 1442b332e5

Sailing Ship Harbor at Hamburg.

Sailing Ship Harbor at Hamburg. GGA Image ID # 1442e9e384

For the discharge of loose grain there are ten floating pneumatic elevators which are capable of discharging from 700 to 800 tons per day per elevator out of one hatch. Thus, if four elevators are employed, 3,000 tons can be discharged in one day.

The expenses incurred by a vessel in the Hamburg Harbor depend upon the cargo, whether or not quays are used, and the private charges of various persons who furnish their personal services.

The charges made by stevedores, barge owners, and shipbrokers, are charges of a private nature, in regard to which official information cannot be given.

Tonnage dues are charged to all vessels, but quay dues only to those which discharge alongside the quays.

Powerful Half-Arch Cranes of About 3 Tons Capaciy, and Two-Story Sheds.

Powerful Half-Arch Cranes of About 3 Tons Capaciy, and Two-Story Sheds. GGA Image ID # 1443a28bcc

The auxiliary vessels for sea-going ships in use in the port of Hamburg can be divided into three classes :

1. Barges generally used for transportation of merchandise on in land waterways of from 300 to 1,800 tons loading capacity, used chiefly for the transportation of grain and bulk articles taken over directly out of the sea-going ship to all points on the upper Elbe and Bohemia. These barges are built flat, broad and long. Their draft is about 3.3 feet.

Freights are charged according to offer and demand; they fluctuate considerably, being chiefly based on the Elbe water level, particularly on the upper Elbe. In severe winters, river traffic is interrupted on the upper Elbe by ice.

2. Iron lighters of from 180 to approximately 1,000 tons loading capacity with crews permanently living on board, and with loading appliances of their own—mast, lighter beam, and winch.

These are used for the transportation of goods to all points along the lower Elbe and the Baltic, by means of tow boats. In view of the fact that the lower Elbe (below Hamburg) has been improved by dredging so that vessels drawing more than 30 feet of water can reach the Port of Hamburg without being obliged to lighter previously, it seldom happens nowadays that vessels lighter part of their cargo at Brunshausen, the most favorable lightering point on the lower Elbe.

3. Steel barges, covered for the transportation of goods from ship or dock to warehouse or factory, are employed under an extremely complicated tariff.
Steamers arriving with cargoes of grain discharge exclusively by floating elevators, directly into barges lying alongside, generally midstream.

Resin, turpentine, and cotton steamers also discharge exclusively midstream, directly into harbor or river craft, chiefly because of the danger of fire. Vessels arriving with general merchandise from New York, Montreal, and other United States and Canadian Ports, discharge their cargoes almost exclusively upon the docks (quays).

The consignee of the goods may either forward such merchandise by rail, lighter or river craft. Smaller quantities are removed from the quays by carts and transported to the place of destination.

In the harbor of Hamburg there is maintained an extensive service of lighters and harbor barges. There are about 500 covered and 2,500 open barges, total, 3,000 vessels, available, ranging from 20 to 500 tons loading capacity.

Hoisting Crane Lifting About 20 Tons.

Hoisting Crane Lifting About 20 Tons. GGA Image ID # 1443ca3153


The Free Port of Hamburg is, within itself, a city. It includes, as already explained, that portion of the city within which customs laws are non-effective. It is owned and governed as an immense and complicated bonded warehouse, by the State, which has permitted many manufacturing establishments to locate there in order to obtain the special shipping facilities and the free use of imported raw materials.

The Free Port territory consists of an area of 2,508 acres, of which 785 acres are under water. This territory is divided from the city proper by the Lower Harbor, the Inner Harbor, the Zoll-Canal, the Upper Harbor, and the, Upper Harbor Canal.

Over 13.7 miles of stone quays encircle the various docks within and without the Free Port, these being provided with ten fixed and 631 movable cranes, to which may be added 111 other cranes located in various buildings, or attached to them.

Ships from Every Clime Can be Seen in Hamburg's Harbor.

Ships from Every Clime Can be Seen in Hamburg's Harbor. GGA Image ID # 14444009b8

For the temporary accommodation of goods there exist 50 sheds with a storage area of 4,090,320 square feet. Behind the sheds are railroad tracks for the prompt and convenient discharge of merchandise by land.

The most important feature of the Free Port is the system of ware house buildings which, for purposes of administration, belong not to the State, but to the Hamburg Free Port Warehouse Company, a corporation chartered by the State, and in which the State itself holds a large block of stock.

Upon the decision of the State of Hamburg to enter the German customs union, and at the same time to create a Free Port for the preservation of its over-sea trade, it became necessary to decide whether the necessary warehouses located within the Free Port should be under State or private control.

The latter course was chosen, and the North German Bank of Hamburg was authorized to set up a stock company upon March 7, 1885, under terms made and agreed upon with the financial department of the city.

The buildings were erected upon public land in the Free Port, and the Company was authorized and required to issue warrants transferable to order or in the name of the bearer, for goods stored on this property.

The stock capital was fixed at $2,142,000 and the tariffs to be charged for the storage and manipulation of merchandise was regulated in the contract.

Crowded Section of Hamburg's Harbor.

Crowded Section of Hamburg's Harbor. GGA Image ID # 1444daa907

The State of Hamburg placed 322,930 square feet of building ground at the disposition of the Company and undertook itself to erect the necessary quay walls and slips in exchange for a share in the net profits of the operating company.

In addition to this, a portion of the net profits of the Company are set aside each year for the creation of a fund for the acquisition of the Company's stock by the State, so that eventually, upon the acquisition of all the shares in the operating company, the State itself will become full proprietor.

To supply the ground space agreed upon, the 16,000 people residing upon the island of Kehrwieder Wandrahm were obliged to seek new homes.

The Board of Supervising Directors consists of nine members to whom are added three persons representing the City. The managing directorate consists of two or more members of the general board.

Busy Scene In Hamburg's Docks.

Busy Scene In Hamburg's Docks. GGA Image ID # 1444e24ccb

The original warehouses have been greatly added to and improved since the opening of the Free Port to traffic. All of the buildings have a land and waterfront and are divided into single fireproofed divisions which are let out to business houses of all nationalities.

A great many American firms have warehouse accommodation within which, at times, millions of dollars' worth of American goods are in storage or are in processes of manipulation for re-exportation to the various markets easily accessible from Hamburg.

Until January 1, 1910, 1,161,069,624 square feet of land were covered by warehouse buildings, within which there were 5,417,725,716 square feet of storage accommodation.

Of the total storage accommodation, 3,186,972,828 square feet were leased to particular firms, while the remaining 2,230,752,888 square feet were administered by the Company in its capacity as a storage Company.


United States Department of Commerce and United States Shipping Board, The Port of Hamburg Including the Ports of Altona and Cuxhaven, Foreign Port Series No. 1. Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1930.

"Hamburg: Regaining Pre-War Trade," in Shipping: Marine Transportation, Construction, Equipment and Supplies, New York: Shipping Publishing Co, Volume 15, No. 5, March 10, 1922, p. 44.

"Hamburg Harbor Developments," in Shipping: Marine Transportation, Construction, Equipment and Supplies, New York: Shipping Publishing Co, Volume 15, No. 4, February 25, 1922 p.44.

"Pre-War Prosperity Returning to Hamburg," in Shipping: Marine Transportation, Construction, Equipment and Supplies, New York: Shipping Publishing Co, Volume 15, No. 2, January 25, 1922, p. 46.

"American Line Terminal In Hamburg," in Shipping: Marine Transportation, Construction, Equipment and Supplies, New York: Shipping Publishing Co., Inc., Volume XIII, No. 2, January 25, 1921, P. 69.

Frederick L. Ford, "The Port of Hamburg." In Part II: A Study of Some Representative European Ports in the Summer of 1909, Report of Connecticut Rivers and Harbors Commission to the General Assembly, Hartford: State of Connecticut, 1911, P. 65-71

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