New world of experience: Experience the harbour in a playful way

New world of experience: Experience the harbour in a playful way


A visitor to the Discovery Docks looks at the digitally animated underwater world of the Elbe

Christian Michalczyk grins. Knock on the window for a moment – and there it comes crawling on, the Chinese woolly crab. The immigrant, who is now at home in large numbers in the Port of Hamburg, reacts to further finger pointing by the employee of the nature Conservation Office of the Hamburg Environmental Authority with movements of his scissors. “They have already managed this pretty well,” says Michalczyk.

Not far from the crab, a porpoise also reacts to Michalczyk’s presence and comes curiously closer; even a flock of stint swims in the direction in which the conservationist turns. Not that the environmental authority has now specialized in the dressage of its harbour fauna: all animals are digital, can be observed on large screens and are part of a new experience exhibition in the Hafencity, which was opened on Monday.

Discovery Dock is the name of the virtual adventure playground for all those who want to experience some concise sides of the Port of Hamburg in a compact form. A place that never sleeps, as it is said in the short introductory film in the rooms on the Kaiserkai, which refers less to the 830th port anniversary that has just ended than to the “heart” of the Hanseatic city, as Susan Molzow, the managing director of Discovery Dock, points out.

From customs to nature

Children from the age of ten and adults can now get to know the topics of container handling, customs or even nature in a playful way at interactive stations. After the introductory film, which shows a full day in the Port of Hamburg in impressive pictures and introduces some of the actors, who later present special features from their areas in short videos – including cruise ship captain Boris Becker, customs officer Günther Losse or Christian Michalczyk -, the visitors enter the main room, which is grouped around the interactive model of the port.

On the table, which stands like an oversized billiard table in the middle of the room, the tides that influence the port of Hamburg every day are visible, the flows of goods that lead in and out of the Hanseatic city by water are shown and the current ship movements on the Elbe can be traced.

It then becomes even more interactive around the model: with the help of virtual reality (VR) glasses, you can lift a container from a ship to be unloaded and put it on a truck. In one minute and 32 seconds, the task on the jerky seat is completed – would it be enough for a career in the port? In the dry dock, for safety reasons, you can only watch the overhaul of a container ship from a lifting platform, albeit impressively close. You almost want to pull your head in so that you don’t bump into the giant’s torso.

It gets exciting at the customs station: with an oversized flashlight, you can scan containers to find contraband. The original recordings show the findings of the Hamburg investigators, from cocaine packages to a whole giraffe. On the other hand, the container station shows what reaches the Port of Hamburg legally and in what quantities: a quarter of all bananas consumed in Germany alone arrive at the port of Hamburg.

Tschentscher expects demand

You have 50 minutes to explore the harbor interactively, then a final projection takes a look into the future. Drones carrying containers? It’s still hard to imagine. But it is a nice thought game with which one is released from the well-made world of experience, which will please technology and port enthusiasts, but which unfortunately misses current topics such as the deepening of the Elbe.

Hamburg’s first Mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD) was nevertheless certain at the opening that the Discovery Dock will have a great demand: the Port of Hamburg is “not Hanseatic folklore, but an industry of the future that is very much shaping the consciousness of our city.“

The founder and operator of the Discovery Dock is DuMont Media GmbH, partners are AIDA Cruises, Hamburger Hafen und Logistik Aktiengesellschaft (HHLA) and Hamburger Port Authority (HPA). It is now open daily from 10 to 19 o’clock, there are eight guided tours per day. Cost: in May, 17.50 euros for adults, later 19.50 euros, children 16.50 euros.

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