Port of Wilhelmshaven
Review and History

The Port of Wilhelmshaven lies on Jade Bay, an inlet of the North Sea, in the State of Ostfriesland in northwest Germany. Focusing on the shipment of oil products, it is Germany’s third largest port. The Port of Wilhelmshaven is the North Sea home of the German navy. The city’s major employers are chemical industries and an oil harbor linked by pipeline to other industrial centers in Germany. Still, the city’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in west Germany.

Today’s Wilhelmshaven is an important tourist destination and health resort. Its main industries include metal working, ship repair, and manufacturing (chemicals, ships, machinery, paints, cranes, clothes, and chocolate). In 2003, about 85 thousand people called Wilhelmshaven home.

Port History

Pirates owned the Sibetsburg Castle on the site of the Port of Wilhelmshaven in the late 14th Century. The castle was destroyed by the Hanseatic League in 1433, and the area remained undeveloped for another four hundred years.

Prince Adalbert of Prussia obtained over 3 square kilometers at Jade Bay through a contract with the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg in 1853. Wilhelm I of Germany founded the Port of Wilhelmshaven in 1869, and the neighboring town of Rustringen (under the Oldenburgs) grew with Wilhelmshaven. The two towns became one in 1937.

Over half of the town’s buildings were destroyed by Allied bombs during World War II when the Port of Wilhelmshaven contained a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp. Inmates of the camp were forced to clear rubble after air raids in 1943. In May 1945, Polish forces took control of the city and the garrison that held about 200 Nazi vessels.

Despite the closing of the naval base after the war, the Port of Wilhelmshaven remains to be Germany’s largest naval base. After the war, the city worked to restore its economic base by the installation of the petrochemical industry and a shift in focus to services and tourism. In the 21st Century, the Port of Wilhelmshaven is geared to enhance its deep-water port to accommodate the largest container ships.

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