International Dredging Review

International Dredging Review

Cars wait in Rødby Denmark for a ferry to unload be-fore boarding the ferry for the 45 minute trip across the Fehmarnbelt to Puttgarden Germany. The tunnel will reduce transit time to 10 minutes.

Femern A/S the planning company for the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link between Denmark and Germany announced in early March its selection of preferred bidders for the main contracts. Among the contracts is a substantial dredging contract principally excavating an 18-kilometer (11-mile) undersea trench for a prefabricated automobile and rail tunnel across the Fehmarnbelt strait in the Baltic Sea. The dredging contract will be awarded to the Fehmarn Belt Contractors (FBC) consortium comprised of Van Oord Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V. Hochtief Solutions AG and Ed Züblin AG and the consultancy SWECO Danmark A/S. Conditional contracts will be signed no later than mid-May 2016.

Femern A/S is a subsidiary of the Danish state-owned Sund & Bælt Holding A/S which is 100 percent owned by the Danish Ministry of Transport and Building. Sund & Bælt Holding A/S is also the parent company of A/S Storebælt which operates the Great Belt Fixed Link and A/S Øresund which operates the Øresund Fixed Link.

For conditional contracts the final and binding contracts will be signed with the designated contractors but that construction work will be postponed until the German construction permit is in place. The contracts are valid until the end of 2019 with the option to renegotiate at that time. Once the final conditions for conditional contracts are settled satisfactorily be-tween Femern A/S and the winning contractors the company will present the results to the Dan-ish Minister of Transport and Building before the contracts are signed in May 2016. 


Aerial photo looking west shows the Baltic Sea area known as the Fehmarnbelt which separates Denmark on the right from northern Germany. 

The total budget for the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link construction is 55 billion Danish kroner (DKK) approximately €7.3 billion or US$8 billion. The value of the contract to dredging con-tractors Boskalis and Van Oord is approximately €300 million (US$330.3 million) each. 

The Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link is the final road-rail link in an infrastructure plan developed by the European Union to connect Scandinavia to the European continent. This connection and the others that preceded it will have positive economic and tourist consequences for the people in the region.


With the Storebaelt (Great Belt) connecting the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen (center of the map) and the Øresund Link between Copenhagen Denmark and Malmö Sweden the new Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link automobile and rail tunnel will complete the transportation network connecting Scandinavia with the European continent.

Back in the 1980s the European Round Table of Industrialists identified 14 missing links in the transportation network of the European continent. Of the 14 three were found to be crossing waterbodies near the Danish Island Zealand. In the 1990s two of these links were realized. One was the Storebaelt (Great Belt) connecting the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen. That connection opened in 1997/98. The other was the Øresund Link between Denmark and Sweden which was finished in 2000. Both of these are massive infrastructures of bridges and tunnels built to accommodate both road and rail traffic and both are about 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) long. 

In 2008 the governments of Denmark and Germany signed a bilateral treaty to realize the third connection – the Fehmarnbelt Link be-tween Denmark and Germany. The Link will be a tunnel across the Fehmarnbelt joining Rødbyhavn located some 140 kilometers (87 miles) south of Copenhagen on the island of Lolland in Denmark and Puttgarden on the island of Fehmarn on the north coast of Germany near Hamburg. At present only ferries connect these two points. 

After two years of environmental impact economic feasibility and other studies including the advantages and disadvantages of a bridge versus tunnel design a decision was reached in 2013 that an immersed tunnel was the way forward. The financial costs of constructing a bridge or tunnel were quite similar but the long-term environmental impacts of building a tunnel were considerably less. 

The Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link will be the world’s longest immersed road and rail tunnel. It will be more than 18 kilometers (11.25 miles) long and carry a four-lane motorway alongside a twin track-electrified railway. The tunnel will be five times the length of the Øresund tunnel (about 4 kilometers or 3.5 miles) between Copenhagen Denmark and Malmö Sweden and three times the length of the Trans-Bay Tube Bart Tunnel – currently the world’s longest immersed tunnel – between San Francisco and Oakland California whose tube is 5.8 km (3.6 miles) long.   

The Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link tender consisted of four contracts: the tunnel north the tunnel south tunnel dredging and reclamation and the tunnel portals and ramps. The Fehmarn Belt Contractors (FBC) consortium is the preferred bidder for the dredging and reclamation contract. The contract is conditional as Danish authorities await the outstanding environmental permits that must be issued by the German authorities. These permits are not expected to be concluded before 2017.

Van Oord and Boskalis will excavate an approximately 18 kilometer (11.25 mile) tunnel trench in the seabed using a variety of dredging equipment including trailing suction hopper dredges backhoes and clamshell dredges. Some 15 million cubic meters (19.5 million cubic yards) of material will be removed. Eighty-nine large pre-cast concrete tunnel elements will be immersed and embedded in the dredged trench. The trench containing the tunnel elements will be 90 meters wide (295 feet) at the seabed level and slope down to 40 meters (132 feet) at the bottom of the trench which will be up to 16 meters (52 feet) deep. The tunnel will subsequently be covered with a layer of sand gravel and stone and made flush with the seabed. The alignment of the tunnel trench is from just east of Rødbyhavn Denmark to just east of Puttgarden on the German side. 

The consortium will also construct a new working harbor to accommodate the tunnel contractors who will construct a tunnel fabrica-tion yard where the tunnel sections will be cast before being floated out to sea for installation.

Another aspect of the contract is to ensure the sustainable use of dredged material. The dredged material will be used to build large new reclamation areas peninsulas east and west of Rødbyhavn and between Puttgarden and the village of Marienleuchte on Fehmarn including a new recreational nature reserve area on the Danish side of the Fehmarnbelt.  

At present the only connection in this region of Northern Europe is a ferry between Puttgarden Germany and Rødby on the Danish island of Zealand which carries cars trains and foot passengers. The ferry transit takes 45 minutes plus waiting time. Using the Fehmarnbelt tunnel link passage by train will take seven minutes and cars and trucks no more than 10 minutes. Thus travel between the two major cities in the region Copenhagen and Hamburg will be shortened by an hour and a half. This will strengthen the economic ties between Scandinavia and the rest of Europe and especially between the Danish and German sides of the Fehmarnbelt region.

The ‘missing link’ strategy to unite European regions led the European Union to form the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) in order to co-sponsor cross-border European transportation infrastructure be it roads rail or airports. Various countries have implemented TEN-T principles in their own way. In Den-mark the ‘fixed link’ idea was made a priority and resulted in a €13 billion (US$14.31 billion) investment which includes the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link project.