At the end of World War II, Allied bombing raids killed over 55,000 people and inflicted extensive damage to the port of Hamburg. Getting the port working again was an absolute priority for national reconstruction, and even today the process undertaken in Hamburg serves as a model for other countries. The following steps can guide the efficient restoration and function of war-damaged ports.

How to rebuild a seaport


  • Reinstate the port perimeter or at least a working port zone, with established physical barriers.
  • Secure the whole port area.


  • Deploy a core team of experienced port personnel with a clear chain of command, including port administration, navigation, and operations.
  • Establish a comprehensive plan to open the port.
  • Plan the transition from interim measures to normal operations.
  • Position the port to complement the country’s recovery program.
  • Establish a working party with key port users, interfacing between the port managers and port users to ensure the reconstruction’s approach meets users’ needs.
  • Establish good communication systems with port users, the agencies responsible for interfacing road and rail infrastructure, and other parties that are a regular feature of port life.


  • Provide safe marine access to the port; clear mines and wrecks.
  • Remove sunken vessels alongside berths.
  • Put navigational aids in place.

Landside Access

  • Work with the agencies responsible for reinstating interfacing landside infrastructure, such as road and rail operators.

Cargo Handling

  • Survey the whole port area to identify areas that may be brought back into service as soon as possible.
  • Consider interim berthing measures if the main berthing infrastructure is severely damaged—for example, floating pontoons equipped with cranes for cargo discharge and loading.
  • Establish temporary “ro-ro ramp” systems (the ideal cargo mode to get things quickly moving again).
  • Use off-the-shelf IT systems to support the management and operation of port/terminal facilities.
  • For faster roll-out, deploy heavy duty mobile cranes as an alternative to fixed cranes for diverse cargo types, and mobile pneumatic un-loaders for free-flowing, dry bulk commodities.


  • Use quick erection storage buildings or other temporary structures to deliver warehouse capacity.