The history of the Rostock Port goes back to the Middle Ages, especially during the Hanseatic period (mid-12th – mid-17th century), the port was an important hub for cultural and mercantile relations with Scandinavia and the Baltic States. With the decline of the Hanseatic and a checkered history, the port only regained greater importance after World War II.
The division of Germany made it systemically necessary to build an efficient seaport on the Baltic coast of the GDR to ensure autonomy of maritime trade. The new port was opened on April 30, 1960. and operated by VEB Seehafen Rostock. The port became the home port for the ships of the Deutsche Seereederei (DSR) and was able to record a steady growth in transshipments, mainly of bulk cargo, until 1989.
With German reunification, a repositioning of the port became necessary. The ferry traffic to Scandinavia and the Baltic States was expanded. The Yara International Port (chemical port on the southern shore of the Breitling) is expanded and can be accessed by tankers with a draught of up to 8.45 meters. From there, a pipeline leads to the YARA plant in Poppendorf. In Yara (as in Beirut), thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate are stored, which is the basis for the production of fertilizers and explosives. (see here>>>)

The Rostock overseas port on the southern shore of the Breitling is considered historically paradigmatic in the context of the Cold War and the more recent history of the global goods transit network. It provides information to the same extent about urban developments during the communist/socialist era, as well as the transformations that took place in the subsequent era of capital-oriented globalization.

On April 26, 1956, the NNN ran an article with the headline: “Final: GDR deep-sea port to be built in Rostock”. This had been decided at a meeting of the city council. But on May 18, SED district leader Karl Mewis declared that corresponding press reports were incorrect. It was “neither in the interest of the city of Rostock, the development of our ports, nor the strengthening of comradely relations with the people of Hamburg and Bremen, if the assertion was made that Rostock was to be developed into the great deep-sea port”. It is said that “the entrance to Rostock-Warnemünde will be opened for ocean-going vessels” so that “the full capacity of the city port can be used.”

While investigations for the best location for a new port were already underway, the NNN reported on July 20, 1957: “Rostock gets deep-sea port.” More than 800 participants in a district party activist meeting of the SED had called on the population to “help build the access road for the Rostock harbor”. Karl Mewis had explained that the access road would also make it possible for the 10,000-ton freighters built on the Warnow to move under their own power on the Warnow. It was also about avoiding unnecessary valuta in foreign ports, he said.

At that time, the design office for industrial construction in Stralsund had already produced a sketch based essentially on ideas by Director Ulrich Wilken, showing the sea channel and the overseas port. On October 14, 1957, the Stralsund office received an order for preliminary planning of the port in Rostock. The VEB Deutsche Seereederei had already been informed on October 5 that construction would begin this year. The 30th meeting of the Central Committee of the SED on October 16, 1957, approved what had long since been decided: to develop Rostock into the largest maritime transshipment center in the GDR.

On October 26, 1957, the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony took place in Petersdorf, near Breitling. The ceremonial act, to which several hundred Rostock residents were invited, was performed by Rostock’s Lord Mayor Wilhelm Solisch – with a swing bucket excavator, the lever of which he operated.

Around the same time, a small group of architects and civil engineers in Stralsund set about designing an initial basic project. Because of the high planning requirements, the design offices in Stralsund and Rostock were merged on January 1, 1958 to form the VEB Design Office for Industrial Construction with technical offices in the two coastal cities.

On the morning of October 7, 1958, the breakthrough of the new port entrance could be celebrated. It was to take another year and a half until the opening of the overseas port. On the morning of April 30, 1960, the time had come. At around 12 noon, the 10,000 tdw freighter “MS Schwerin” moored at berth 31. Finally, the passenger ship “Ahlbeck” entered the harbor. On board were the guests of honor: Walter Ulbricht, as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED the most powerful man in the GDR, Minister of Transport Erwin Kramer, Karl Mewis, government representatives from several countries, port directors or their deputies, including from Malmö, Oslo and Copenhagen. After the ceremony, the builders of the port and their wives were drawn to the standing banquet in quay hall 1. In the evening, they were served food and drink in several Rostock pubs. At the same time, a reception was held for prominent guests at the Warnemünde Kurhaus.

Five months later, the first port director of the overseas port, Wolfgang Benedict, became a non-person. The Warnemünde native studied maritime and port management in Dresden and returned to Rostock as a graduate engineer. When the ports of Rostock, Wismar and Stralsund were merged to form the “United Seaports of the GDR” on July 1, 1958, he acted as their handling manager. On December 1, 1959, he was appointed port manager to prepare the commissioning of the overseas port with three colleagues. After disputes with the SED district leadership, he was dismissed at the end of September 1960 and expelled from the party. A heart condition set in, and a few days after an operation in Brno he died at the age of 38.

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