Germany's Rhine river starts to reopen as high water levels fall

17 January 2011 12:05  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--A stretch of the river Rhine in Germany that was closed because of high water levels between Cologne and Mainz has reopened, an official said on Monday.

However, the site where a ship carrying 2,378 tonnes of sulphuric acid capsized last week would remain closed until the morning of 18 January, said Florian Krekel, a spokesman for shipping authority Wasser- und Schifffahrtsamt Bingen.

“They are reopening during today,” Krekel said, referring to the main stretch of river affected by high water. “Cologne has reopened, then Andernacht and Koblenz will follow.”

The site of the accident, near St Goarshausen, south of Koblenz, was expected to reopen upstream only to some vessels on the morning of 18 January.

“We will permit only a limited passage of the site,” Krekel said by telephone. “We will decide which size of vessel can pass the site.”

Water levels had peaked on 16 January at Bingen and Kaub, a critical point for shipments along the river, but were now falling.

The ship, which capsized on 13 January, was en route from German chemical major BASF’s production hub in Ludwigshafen to Antwerp, Belgium.

Some leakage of acid had been detected shortly after the accident but the water was now at normal acidity levels, Krekel told ICIS. Two crew members from the vessel were still missing.

The Rhine is an important European shipping route for chemicals and other commodities, including minerals, coal and oil products.

Chemical industry sources were predicting problems if the river remained closed beyond 18 January. They reported no major impact.

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By: Graeme Paterson
+44 20 8652 3214

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