The town of Wedel is Hamburg’s direct neighbour to the west and lies on the northern banks of the Elbe river. Its immediate access to the river and its estuary has brought wealth to the town and made its beautiful harbour a focal point. Wedel is especially well-known for its Willkomm Höft (Low German for ‘Welcome Point’) for large vessels entering the Port of Hamburg.
Welcome to the Port of Hamburg
Every time a large vessel approaches or leaves the Port of Hamburg, the Welcome Point staff in Wedel prepare to welcome the ship and her crew at this point. This charming procedure is the same every time and provides a spectacular sight for visitors both at the Welcome Point itself and the nearby Schulauer Fährhaus restaurant.
Public loudspeakers on the pier play the national anthem of every large vessel that passes, depending on the flag the ship is flying, along with a welcome message in their respective language as well as in German and English: ‘Welcome to Hamburg. We are pleased to welcome you to the Port of Hamburg.’
A great view of large vessels
Visitors are invited to watch the ceremony from the floating pier on the Elbe river or from the cosy Schulauer Fährhaus restaurant with a snack and drink. The staff at the restaurant will also gladly provide their patrons with additional information on the passing vessels, such as length, width, draught, shipping company and other basic facts – full service for ship spotters.
This is presented by the five ‘welcoming captains’, who are always up to date on information about the ships and any current changes. Over time, a carefully collected, handwritten card index has been created, including facts and data on around 17,000 vessels. The full welcoming service is carried out for large vessels with a size of 1,000 GT (gross tonnage) and above; smaller ships are welcomed by dipping the flag of the City of Hamburg.
Welcoming ceremonies since 1952
The story of the Welcome Point began officially on 12 June 1952 when Carl Kircheiß, a Hamburg-born captain and polar explorer, who circumnavigated the globe, baptised the flagpole with a bottle of rum. The first vessel to be welcomed at the Welcome Point was the Japanese cargo ship Agaki Maru. Ever since, countless vessels from all around the world have been welcomed and bid farewell.
Except for during two sad periods: During the flood catastrophes of February 1962 and January 1976, crucial parts of the facility were destroyed. Each time, the operators of the Welcome Point quickly found an adequate solution: an even taller flagpole – and another bottle of rum.
In 2012, the new owner renovated the Welcome Point and the Schulauer Fährhaus restaurant completely, installed a new speaker system, and built the floating pier structure, which provide an even better view of the ships and an altogether better experience for visitors.
Das NEUE Schulauer Fährhaus
For more information and opening hours, see Das NEUE Schulauer Fährhaus.