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Bremen and Bremerhaven rank among the most important universal ports in Europe. Offering a wide range of services, the terminals handle virtually every kind of freight, from containers and cars to general and bulk cargo. With throughput of more than 2 million vehicles per annum, the ports of Bremen are firmly established as one of the largest automobile hubs in the world, while the Columbus Cruise Center in Bremerhaven is also a major passenger terminal for cruise liners.

Ensuring the ports run smoothly is a critical task – a role that falls to port authority bremenports GmbH & Co. KG.  Two major duties are necessary: hydrographic survey of the water depth as well as detailed analysis of the quay walls.

Using multi-beam technology to keep ships safe and cargo flowing

In 2016, the multibeam Sonic 2024 was put into service by bremenports aboard the survey vessel Seeadler.


The system was used by the port authority to not only monitor and analyze the quay walls as part of routine scanning, but also to analyze certain specific areas of concern or damage.

An important criterion for the selection of the Sonic 2024 was the high resolution offered by the system, combined with the density of measured points. The system enabled the port to not only scan quay walls with high precision, but also identify any manmade objects or other hindrances on the harbor floor.

Using the Sonic 2024 to detect and repair specific challenges

Bremenports has used the Sonic 2024 to identify and remediate a number of concerns. These include:


  • Identification (and filling) of local a tidal scour hole in the Bremerhaven container terminal.
  • Assessing the damage to a quay following a ship collision. After the incident, the harbor basin needed to be surveyed for possible deformation of the quay wall.
  • Quay wall analysis at the Columbuskaje, the cruise terminal of Bremerhaven.
  • Container quay monitoring. With an annual container handling volume of 5.5 million TEU, the container quay has particular economic importance in Bremerhaven. Accordingly, the water depths are surveyed monthly to ensure the safe navigation and berthing of some of the world’s largest container ships.
  • Quay wall scanning at the Fischereihafen, at about 6m water depth. Here, the Sonic 2024’s analysis together with that of maintenance engineers revealed unknown features which required further investigation by bremenports’ diving inspections.

High resolution and accuracy for a clearer view

Heightening the R2Sonic’s baseline capabilities, bremenports made use of the Sonic 2024’s Ultra-High Resolution (UHR) 700kHz operating frequency, which emits the narrowest beamwidths currently available on the market (0.3⁰x0.6⁰). In addition, the port authority also employed the Ultra High Density (UHD) mode, which increases the number of independent soundings to 1024, and therefore contributes to high accuracy.


While bremenports is only at the beginning of using multibeam data for quay wall inspections, preliminary investigations are already showing the system’s potential for analyzing and assessing the condition of waterside infrastructure.


Moving forward, it is clear that a system such as the Sonic 2024 holds great potential for safety and monitoring applications in ports around the world.

Check out the white paper written by THORSTEN DÖSCHER, Chief Hydrographer at Bremenports.

German version:

English version:

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