Our compass. Both feet firmly on the deck, every ship in action.

We provide transport at the Port of Hamburg and on the River Elbe as part of the HVV network. With seven routes and 20 jetties, we cast off 180,000 times. 365 days a year. We cover 330,000 nautical miles – the equivalent of travelling around the world eleven times. Ice floes, fog or storms? Just you let us worry about that. We will always get you home dry and take you to your destination quickly and safely. Nothing else matters.

Icons are born of tradition

1888

Port planning

1888 was a real turning point for Hamburg: as well as becoming part of the German Empire’s customs system, the city opened the Speicherstadt and the free port. What’s more – and this is the best bit – 1888 also ushered in a “regular steam ferry connection for the Elbe free port”. That was the objective of the ferry contract signed between Hafen-Dampfschifffahrt A.-G. and the senate on 08/08/1888, and the vision of HADAG’s founder, Ernst Hadenfeldt. Up to that point, there had been countless boatmen and ferry companies operating alongside one another at the port. It was time to put an end to the chaos!

The Port of Hamburg was not just one port but many, each with a specific purpose. They included the India-Hafen and Strand-Hafen, Petroleum-Hafen and Baaken-Hafen, Oberhafen and Zollhafen. All in all, there were more than 38. Thousands of workers needed to travel each day to the shipyards, fruit warehouses and quay walls. It took a lot of people to run a world-class port: workers to clean the boilers and ships, vessel painters and machinists, dockers and winch operators. The HADAG skippers were also at the centre of the action. While rowing boats might seem like a nice idea, they’re not much fun in gale-force winds. From 1888 onwards, a single fleet put things on the right tack. The first route was the Zollkanal line, stopping at St. Pauli Landungsbrücke, Roosenbrücke (Baumwall), Kajen (Rödingsmarkt), Mattentwiete (Brooksbrücke), Steckelhörn (Zippelhaus), Wandrahmsbrücke (Meßberg), Deichtor, Stadtdeich, Brandshofer Schleuse, Elbbrücke and Veddel. By 1893, six more lines had been added. The number then grew further and today there are eight.

When the Kaiser abdicated in 1918, the city took the rudder. The senate has sat astern ever since. HADAG expanded its portfolio. The vessels that weren’t needed during the day started taking visitors on harbour tours. Soon, they started going as far as Cuxhaven, Heligoland and even the Caribbean. Admittedly, it took a while for us to venture as far as the Caribbean – and we didn’t do it with a steamer.

  • Ernst Merck (1889) - first generation of ferries
    Ernst Merck (1889) - first generation of ferries

The 1920s

Services on the Lower Elbe to Cuxhaven and Heligoland

Let’s be honest. A boat trip is much less fun if you’ve got to rivet newly made iron or unload heavy cargo at the end of it. In the 20s, HADAG added various pleasure cruises to its port services. This meant, for instance, that people could travel to Cuxhaven for a toast on board the Jan Molsen or admire Stadersand lighthouse with the paddle steamer Cuxhaven. In 1929, HADAG took over the vessels belonging to the Hamburg Stade-Altländer Linie and several jetties from Wittenbergen to Wischhafen. More connections were added. The tourists were grateful – as were all the Hamburg residents who were then able to combine pleasure trips with long walks.

  • MG Amsinck (1913) – Built for 500 passengers
    MG Amsinck (1913) – Built for 500 passengers

The big ocean-going vessels are so close to the heart of the city that the thrum and hum of the port, the breeze over the water and the big, wide world can be felt even in the furthest suburbs.

  • Jan Molsen (1925) – the most iconic HADAG ferry
    Jan Molsen (1925) – the most iconic HADAG ferry

Post-war recovery

Calming the waters

Almost all of the ferries had been sunk. The harbour basins and the Elbe were full of wrecks; the docks had been destroyed and the shipyards dismantled. World War II had blown open the gateway to the world. However, by 1 June 1945, parts of the port were able to start operating again, which was little short of a miracle. Pleasure cruises weren’t on anyone’s agenda at that point. Trips to source basic supplies – swapping a dress for a piece of ham, for example – were much more important than day hikes. In the years that followed, HADAG expanded its fleet and created its legendary class vessels. These ferries were as tough as ice-breakers but nevertheless rather elegant. Between 1952 and 1963, 40 diesel-electric and motor vessels were built according to standardised criteria at Hamburg’s shipyards. They ranged from shallow motor launches for use around the port with its low bridges to larger ships that could carry up to 607 passengers for the harbour and the Lower Elbe.

  • Niendorf (1959) – Classic postwar shipbuilding scheme
    Niendorf (1959) – Classic postwar shipbuilding scheme

Sailing the seven seas

Moin future

It’s more than a few nautical miles from Teufelsbrück to Trinidad. In the 1980s, HADAG branched out from the Lower Elbe to the seven seas when it started operating cruises. Occasionally, the company even made it onto German TV. There’s no denying that sundowners taste sweeter in the tropics. In 1982, the newbuild Astor and HADAG Cruises whisked Hamburg residents away to sunnier climes. It was a bold move and several more lines were added, but in the end we thought better of it. What matters now is how we travel – which is why we are switching to sustainable propulsion systems throughout the whole of our fleet. The future starts here.

Captain Cookie

All sea routes lead to Rome! Or do they lead to Hamburg? To make sure you get to the right destination, we have embedded Google Maps on our site. For even more orientation and user-friendliness. Because whether on water or on land: Nothing works without proper maps! Of course, you can also just drift aimlessly with us.

Captain Cookie

All sea routes lead to Rome! Or do they lead to Hamburg? To make sure you get to the right destination, we have embedded Google Maps on our site. For even more orientation and user-friendliness. Because whether on water or on land: Nothing works without proper maps! Of course, you can also just drift aimlessly with us.

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