History of harbour pilotage in Bremerhaven
The beginnings of harbour pilotage in Bremerhaven are based on two port areas: Bremerhaven and Geestemünde. They are closely connected with the respective completion and expansion of harbour basins in 1827.
The first port regulation of October 18th, 1830 did not contain any special regulations on development of a pilotage system. The pilotage on river Geeste was carried out by Weser pilots of Geestemünde.
The completion of new docks in the harbour basin "Alter Hafen" (752 m long, 58 m wide, 5 m deep) with a lock (42 m long, 26 m wide and 11 m passage width) in the late summer of 1830 led to the recruitment of two harbor pilots. They were subordinates of the harbour master and carried out pilot services on the outer harbour areas and the harbour basin "Alter Hafen".
By the end of 1830, 18 ships entered the new "Port of Bremerhaven". In the coming years the number of ships increased steadily.
In 1834, 2006 ships were destined for Bremen, from which 248 arrived in Bremerhaven. Bremerhaven developed into a thriving port and busy place of trade.
On July 19th, 1847 the regular transatlantic passenger and postal service between New York and Europe was set into service. Bremerhaven became the main departure and destination port of the passenger shipping company “North German Lloyd”. In the same year, the Senate of Bremen instructed the experienced Construction council Van Ronzelen to set up a second harbour basin north of the basin “Alter Hafen”. The construction of this new harbour basin, called "Neuer Hafen", began immediately, as the size of seagoing vessels constantly increased.
After only five years of construction, in the summer of 1852, the new harbour basin was handed over to regular shipping traffic. The highlight of this harbour was a new lock of 22 meters width, which was the largest on the European continent. The harbour basin "Neuer Hafen" was visited and admired as a magnificent and astonishing building at German industrial height of that time.
At this time, five harbor pilots carried out pilotage services in the harbour basins "Neuer Hafen" and "Alter Hafen". 362 passenger ships headed for Bremerhaven and transported almost 77,000 emigrants to the New World. In 1854, Bremerhaven became Europe's largest emigration port. At the entrance to the harbour basin “Neuer Hafen”, a neo-Gothic brick lighthouse of 36 meters in hight was built which became one of Bremerhaven's landmarks.
In 1857, about 65% of Bremen's shipping traffic was handled in Bremerhaven. The construction of the Port of Geestemünde began and with its completion in 1863 one harbour pilot was assigned there. The basin was 550 meters long, 100 meters wide and 7 meters deep. The size was comparable to the ports of Bremen and Hamburg. The entrance was fitted with a 90 meters long, 23 meters wide and 12 meters deep lock.
Port regulations of July 15th, 1863 stated, that every seagoing vessel with 60 and more “tonnage size” carrying capacity except tugs and passenger steamer departing from the river Geeste had to use the services of a harbour pilot.
The instructions to the harbour pilots of October 30th, 1863 contains a scale of charges as well as general regulations, e.g. that the pilots have to provide a working yawl on their expenses. There were five harbour pilots for the basins on the left side of the Geestebank employed.
The harbour pilots were civil servants of the harbour police. Their service had to be used by any ship whichs entry or exit would have been unsafe without expert guidance.
During this period port facilities of Geestemünde and Bremerhaven developed into the largest petroleum port in Europe. The import of petroleum increased from 5,000 tons in 1865 to 100,000 tons in the following 25 years.
In 1866, six harbour pilots in Bremerhaven and five harbour pilots in Geestemünde were employed. In the years around 1870 it happened several times that the harbour basins of Bremerhaven and Geestemünde were fully occupied and cargo operations of further calling vessels had to be postponed. To meet the increased demands for further berths Kaiserhafen I was buildt in 1875.
The new lock to the Kaiserhafen I was 5 meters narrower than the lock to harbour basin of “Neuer Hafen”. The passage width was 17 meters only, but the time of the paddle steam ships came to an end and a larger width was not necessary.
Bremerhaven had three harbour basins with 3 locks now, Geestemünde one harbor basin with one lock. With the help of this good infrastructure, Bremerhaven and Geestemünde developed into a ruling port of North European waters.
In 1873, 73 percent of ships entering the Weser berthed in Bremerhaven and almost 90 percent of overseas shipping on river Weser used these new port facilities.
The harbour basins were constantly overcrowded. Bremerhaven and the local maritime industry profited from the success and size of the North German Lloyd as well as its high-speed steamers.
In the year 1887 nine high-speed steamers were under the flag of the North German Lloyd. The shipping company belonged to the most successful in the shipping world.