Action group seeks halt to Fehmarnbelt Tunnel dredging

19 January 2022

Following ‘urgent’ concerns raised by an environmental group, a federal court in Leipzig, Germany has recommended a suspension of dredging work at contended reef areas on the German side of the Fehmarnbelt fixed link.

’Aktionsbündnis gegen eine feste Fehmarnbeltquerung’ (Alliance against a Fehmarnbelt fixed link) had protested against the start of work in newly discovered reef areas in coastal waters off Puttgarden – a coastal village on the German island of Fehmarn.

Reefs were discovered after the project received the green light from the German government in January 2019. The Alliance’s action was in response to work in contested areas. despite a court ruling of 1 September 2021 in which the state amended the scheme’s original planning approval for the German section, ordering immediate enforceability to account for and minimise the destruction of newly-discovered reefs, especially those off Puttgarden.

Reef biotopes in the Fehmarnbelt are regarded as noteworthy due to their ‘exceptional biodiversity’ and are seen as being particularly important in a heavily polluted Baltic Sea. The Alliance has alleged that following discovery of the reefs, Danish state project owner Femern did not map reef areas along the alignment.

According to the Alliance, it is doubtful whether enough ‘compensation areas’ – where artificial reefs would be created by the contractor to compensate for those damaged or destroyed by construction – can be found in the Baltic. As long as this remains in doubt, the viability of the project is questionable and construction must not continue, contended the Alliance. Despite this, other work is continuing on both sides of the project.

The US$8.2bn Fehmarnbelt project comprises an 18km immersed tube tunnel beneath the Baltic Sea, linking Puttgarden, Germany with Rødbyhavn, Denmark. A total of 79 hollow, reinforced concrete elements – around 217m long, 42m wide and 9m high – and 10 special elements (incorporating a lower floor) will form the tunnel. Cast on land, they will be floated out to sea and sunk into a pre-dredged trench on the sea bed.

Ramboll-Arup-TEC JV is consultant to the client, while in-house consultancy services are supplied by ÅF-Hansen & Henneberg. Due to open in 2029, the Fehmarnbelt fixed link will be the world’s longest immersed tube tunnel and the longest combined road and rail tunnel underwater. Its completion is expected to facilitate freight and passenger travel between Scandinavia and mainland Europe.