Czech government begins fine-tuning rules for Hamburg port swap with Germans

Port of Hamburg. Von Alexander Sölch (Aliosos) – own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, of Hamburg. Von Alexander Sölch (Aliosos) – own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The state anticipates using the acquired space "for the purposes of maritime transport, inland navigation and multimodal transport".

The Ministry of Transport has prepared rules for negotiations with the Germans on the exchange of port areas in Hamburg. It has sent a draft “guideline for expert negotiations on the text of the agreement” for inter-ministerial comments. The guideline specifies, for example, that the territory exchange agreement will be signed by the president with the approval of Parliament, and defines the composition of the negotiating delegations, which should, for example, try to get the longest possible lease for the least amount of money. The has the draft.

The Czech Republic administers three port territories in Hamburg. Moldauhafen (3,000 m²) and Saalehafen (21,000 m²) are on long-term lease, while Peutehafen (8,000 m²) is owned by the Czech Republic. The territories fell to the Czechs under the Treaty of Versailles; the lease was agreed in 1929 for 99 years with an option for a further 50 years.

Czech territories in Hamburg. Credit: Czech Waterways Directorate

Czech territories in Hamburg. Credit: Czech Waterways Directorate

The leased Moldauhafen and Saalehafen territories are to be exchanged, while Peutehafen will remain in the ownership of the Czech state. Saalehafen and Moldauhafen are now effectively brownfields which cannot be used for maritime transport due to low bridges. In their place, the Czech Republic should lease an equally large area near the Kuhwerder terminal with a quayside of about 200 meters, where naval ships can dock up to a draft of 12 meters. It would thus be a full-fledged seaport.

“In connection with the anticipated conclusion of the newly proposed agreement on the exchange of Czech territories in Hamburg, a withdrawal from the lease agreements in the port territories of Saalehafen and Moldauhafen, which were concluded under the Treaty of Versailles, is expected” reads the material of the Ministry of Transport. The lease period of the new territory should be at least 50 years.

The state plans to use the acquired space “for maritime transport, inland navigation and multimodal transport (transhipment for rail and road transport)”. However, the necessary infrastructure needs to be built on the shore, and the Ministry of Transport estimates an investment of CZK 2.5 billion. This would not necessarily be paid by the state; it could also be covered by a private investor.
The exchange of the territories has been talked about for many years. Germany was especially interested before 2015, as it planned to build an Olympic Village in the Saale and Moldau areas. In 2015, however, the people of Hamburg rejected the idea of hosting the Olympics in a referendum and all plans for the swap froze. Germany revisited the idea later, saying they would allow the exchange.

From the Ministry of Transport material on the negotiations with Germany on the port exchange

The Czech side will pursue the following priority objectives in the expert negotiations:
• not to oblige the Czech side to carry out construction or demolition works on the existing territories before the handover thereof to the German side;
• to negotiate long-term price stability and the lowest possible price for the lease of the new territory;
• to pursue the objective of the longest possible lease period for the Kuhwerder Hafen port territory, i.e. a minimum of 50 years; and
• to secure a guarantee from the German side to enable and actively approach the construction of infrastructure in the leased territory according to the business plan of the Czech side (transport infrastructure, storage areas and facilities, administrative buildings, car parks).

Tagy Czech territories in Hamburg Ministry of Transport Port of Hamburg
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