On Monday, 03 August 2009, the first containers that were brought from Berlin to the Port of Hamburg via the new Elbe-Spree inland waterway were unloaded. The line operated by the Berlin Hafen- und Lagerhaus AG in cooperation with Konrad Zippel Spediteur GmbH from Hamburg will now be used for transports from City-GVZ Berlin Westhafen to the Hamburg container terminals and vice versa every week. The inland water vessel MS Shir Khan has a transport capacity of 54 TEUs (standard
containers). It will replace approx. 50 truck runs per week.
The Berlin waterway connection was developed in the scope of the "Deutsche Einheit no. 17" traffic project. It is now able to handle economic transport from Berlin to Hamburg by ship through the Spree river, the Havelkanal, the Elbe-Havel-Kanal, the Mittellandkanal and the Elbe-Seitenkanal. The Middle-Elbe is navigable when the water level permits, but there are still some navigation restrictions due to discontinued maintenance measures. At Dömitz, the water level fell below 80 cm in the summer of 2008.
Container traffic, which is especially important for the Port of Hamburg, is increasingly often conducted by the more environmentally sustainable ships in both directions. As a Planco 2007 study showed, ships have much better results in respects of energy consumption, pollution, traffic safety and noise than freight railway or trucks. The number of containers transported in the Hamburg port hinterland traffic rose by 29 % in 2008 and has now reached 119,000 TEUs. By now, the container shipping lines between Hamburg and inland ports in Northern and Eastern Germany are used for 16 container transports per week. Increasingly often, containers are transported by inland ship even between the different terminals of a single port. The largest German port is now also the third-largest German inland port. In spite of a difficult macroeconomic environment, environmentally sustainable transport by inland water vessel will be further developed.