Jens Briese leaps over a puddle, then dodges an approaching shovel excavator. “The wharves should be finished, along with the railway tracks above them, by winter at the latest,” said Mr. Briese, the head of the harbor association Deltaport.
The logistics expert, who before coming to the Lower Rhine played a key role in building the Jade-Weser-Port on a North Sea bay in northwest Germany, has ambitious plans for the outlet of the Lippe river, which is a tributary of the Rhine. If Mr. Briese’s vision becomes reality, a new logistics hub could be created around Wesel, a city down the Rhine from Duisburg and Düsseldorf in western Germany. If everything goes well, shipments should begin passing through the transfer site next year.
Mr. Briese is attempting — with an investment budget of €45 million ($60.2 million)— to revive three aging harbors that were combined in 2012 into the Deltaport association by the Wesel district as well as the cities of Wesel and Voerde.
Freight from England or Denmark can be transported to Deltaport without an intermediate stop.
One of these harbors has a grand history. In 1957, during the years of Germany’s economic miracle, the Rhine-Lippe harbor was inaugurated — first as a transfer site for Gelsenberg Gasoline, and shortly later for BP as well. Massive storage tanks were built.
Starting in 1960, almost a third of crude oil shipments in the Federal Republic of Germany passed through the port at the Lippe outlet until the closure of the Ruhr refinery put an end to the boom 25 years later.
Mr. Briese sees a link to the past. The Duisburg firm Tanquid is using the harbor, where last year it transferred 800,000 tons of oil. Also under construction in the Rhine-Lippe harbor is a facility of KS-Recycling, which will process waste oil and used brake fluid for reuse. The company from Sonsbeck intends to ship its finished products along the Rhine to Rotterdam, Europe’s largest seaport.
Construction is slated to begin this year on a huge structure for Hegmann Transit, which specializes in heavy transport and seeks access to a waterway. In 2015, Deltaport will be building a docking facility that later might be expanded. That project will be financed by revenues from leasehold purchase contracts, said Mr. Briese, who expects further revenues from transfer fees.
At the nearby Deltaport harbor of Emmelsum, the paper manufacturer Sappi has announced it needs more room. Inland vessels already deliver cellulose to the company from the seaports of Antwerp and Rotterdam. The planned extension would transform the harbor south of Wesel into an important distribution hub for paper products. The city harbor, whose dilapidated facilities are being replaced at a cost of €11 million, is intended by Mr. Briese to become an important transfer site for salt, grain and coal.
Logistics service Rhenus already uses the facility to transport freight from North Sea harbors in convoys of ships along the Rhine or the Wesel-Datteln Canal. “From here it is possible to make deliveries of coal to power plants along the waterways to the east,” Mr. Briese said. Moreover, railway tracks are connected to main lines at the junction point of Oberhausen.
Duisport, Europe’s largest inland harbor only 20 kilometers farther up the Rhine at Duisburg, has little to say about activities at the outlet of the Lippe. “We do not make any comments about competitors,” said Erich Staake, the head of Duisport.
But Wesel could be a problem for him. That port is attractive because it can be navigated even when the water is low. The river depth is sufficient for so-called coasters. Freight from England or Denmark can be transported to Deltaport without an intermediate stop. This becomes difficult further up along the Rhine, by the latest at Düsseldorf.
The Federal Association of German Inland Water Transport welcomes the upgrading work. Said Jens Schwanen, the association’s director: “Deltaport offers some breathing room to the seaports, which are currently suffering from massive handling problems.”