Managing Director Stig Rømer Winther - 15 years with the Fehmarn project. Photo: Femern Belt Development

Managing Director Stig Rømer Winther takes stock after 15 years of work with the Fehmarn project; many Danish workplaces, significant orders for Danish companies, business establishment on Lolland, increased Danish-German business cooperation and an international knowledge center are some of the already visible results of the future permanent connection.

On 1st  March 2008, Stig Rømer Winther became Managing Director of Femern Belt Forum Foundation, as it was then called, now Femern Belt Development Foundation.

Then, as now, the aim was to get the greatest possible benefit from the Fehmarn connection in the form of jobs and regional growth and development, both during the construction period and in the years following its commission.

"It has been 15 intense years with ups and downs, lawsuits, postponements of the project and occasional doubts as to whether the project would be carried out at all. But now anyone can see for themselves that the project is well under way and that the great expectations for new jobs and development are really being fulfilled," says Stig Rømer Winther.

Europe's largest construction site is now established in Rødbyhavn, and also in Puttgarden on the German side of the Fehmarn Belt, the contours of the future permanent Danish-German connection, scheduled to open at the end of 2029, are taking shape.

Danish companies benefit greatly from the Fehmarn connection

Already in 2011, Femern Belt Development took the initiative to prepare the companies in Region Zealand for the opportunities that would come with the construction of the Fehmarn connection.

The initiatives "Ready for new opportunities" and "Fehmarn Growth" were aimed at upskilling both management and employees, not least in the construction industry, the service industry and in the transport sector, and thus preparing companies for being able to bid for future Fehmarn orders.

Over the years, around 800 companies, primarily from Region Zealand, have participated in orientation meetings and courses that have prepared them for the Fehmarn project, and Femern Belt Development has also worked intensively to get the companies to form partnerships and join networks in order to create the capacity to make themselves count in such a large project.

"Many companies accepted offers and advice, and this has resulted in a surprisingly large number of orders and sub-contracts on the Fehmarn project going to Danish companies. To date, around 200 Danish companies have taken part in the tasks on the Fehmarn project, and the coming years will offer further tasks of interest to small and medium-sized companies," says Stig Rømer Winther.

The increased business activity has, among other things, led to business establishment on Lolland, a German company's purchase of industrial land in Maribo, and has also led to increased residence.

Many white-collar worker families have settled in Lolland, which has provided a solid basis for Lolland Municipality to establish an international school.

Growing German support for the Fehmarn connection

Over the years, the Fehmarn project has been subject to opposition, primarily from environmental organizations and among the local population on the island of Fehmarn.

"Their resistance is no longer so visible. I can see that more and more people are now instead choosing to look at the possibilities that lie in the Fehmarn connection. At least that is the attitude we are increasingly experiencing among German local politicians and not least in business circles in northern Germany," says Stig Rømer Winther.

Femern Belt Development works together with a number of partners on an ongoing basis to create and maintain contact between Danish and German companies. It happens i.e. in connection with the annual sports and business event BeltCup in July and Fehmarnbelt Days, which this year will take place on 11 and 12 June in Rødbyhavn.

Export of Danish knowledge about green mega-infrastructure projects

Together with a number of partners, Femern Belt Development took the initiative in 2022 to establish the Fehmarn Innovation Link in Rødbyhavn with the aim of collecting the knowledge obtained during the Fehmarn project and sharing and anchoring it in the Danish construction industry.

"Very significant new knowledge is built up in this project, which can contribute to improving the positioning of Danish construction companies, so that we can realize the vision of becoming a world leader in green mega-infrastructure," says Stig Rømer Winther.

Fehmarn Innovation Link has been active since 1st  September 2022 in temporary premises, and work is currently underway on a permanent future location close to the Fehmarn construction site in Rødbyhavn.

Work is underway to make the tunnel factory permanent. Photo: Femern A/S

Permanent factory with many workplaces

According to the original plans, the enormous tunnel factory that is under construction at the Fehmarn construction site in Rødbyhavn, and where the 73,000-ton heavy and 217 meter-long tunnel pipes are produced, was to be demolished when the Fehmarn project finishes.

Now, however, there is a prospect that the factory can be made permanent.

"We are working together with a number of partners to preserve the factory as a future production site, not only for tunnel pipes for future Danish infrastructure projects, but also foreign ones, and for this as a producer of, for example, concrete foundations for the planned energy islands in e.g. The North Sea," says Stig Rømer Winther.

Making the tunnel factory permanent will provide many future jobs in Lolland.

"It is quite clear that we are already seeing many positive effects of the Fehmarn project, and in the coming years we can look forward to even more. Therefore, it is important that we constantly keep our eyes on all the growth and development opportunities that arise in the next 10-15 years," says Stig Rømer Winther.