Staying Safe During All Weather Conditions
When the North Sea gets rougher and the storm surge season begins, they are the custodians of our ports: Our storm surge protection workers.
The storm surge season begins on October 15th every year. First of all, this means that recreational boat clubs take the jetties out of the water, and the clearing of the dikes is initiated by the Dike Associations. Objects that could float around during a storm surge, such as garbage containers, must be secured. That's where our team comes in: Everything that is not nailed down must be reported to the responsible persons or removed directly.
In all ports, the digital alert system "Rapid Reach" is used, which gives early warning of upcoming storm tides. At fixed water levels, the Nautical Officer on site triggers the system. All relevant persons are automatically contacted by phone or SMS. Rapid Reach shows who was reached or to whom no contact was made. This is important to have a quick overview of who is informed and where contact is still needed. The aim is to ensure that all responsible persons in their area of competence take the necessary steps.
In addition, the "Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie" (BSH) and the NLWKN (Niedersächsischer Landesbetrieb für Wasserwirtschaft, Küsten- und Naturschutz) provide information on storm surge warnings. Depending on the situation, these are used to initiate a pre-alert, or to keep a close eye on the water level in order to trigger the alerts at the right moment.
Even though the alert system is the same in all locations, storm surges are treated individually for each port location. This is described in the respective Storm Surge Action Plan that also lists all important contacts and measures. In Norddeich, the water crosses the quay at +1.50 meters at mean high-tide level. In other ports this happens at different water levels and not always at the same time. It depends on the nautical and geographical location and the height of the quay wall.
This varies from port to port, as the port facilities differ greatly from one another. Therefore, it is not surprising that the protective measures that are implemented also vary widely. While in Emden all nine dike openings are closed during heavy storm tides, in Brake the flood protection gates and the state protection embrasures are closed by our Harbor Attendants. In Wilhelmshaven, on the other hand, the closure of the dike gates is not the responsibility of NPorts at all, but of the local fire department. The NPorts storm surge protection workers at Jade Harbor are concentrating on closing and clearing the parking spaces at the Naussauhafen and at the Helgoland and Wangerooge Quays.
In case of increased water levels, our team works on standby at all locations. As soon as there is a risk of the water spilling over the edge of the quay, the team is on site, regardless of the time, whether on the weekend or in the middle of the night. Then the ship reporting offices as well as the Construction Yard are manned and our team checks in the port, whether anything still needs to be secured. For example, there may be cars in the flood zone that need to be towed away if the owner of the car cannot be identified. The main purpose of recovering cars is not to protect property. It is about protecting the environment: The operating fluids in the car can cause great damage at sea and on land. Also, items standing around are recovered so that they do not take or cause damage.
The storm surge season officially ends on April 15th. The jetties can be put back into the water and garbage containers back in front of the dikes. And our colleagues can once again devote themselves fully to their main tasks as Harbor Attendants, Construction Yard or Port Office employees, etc., because storm surge protection is only one additional task during the winter season.