Stretch of Rhine may stay shut for three weeks after ship capsize

18 January 2011 12:58  [Source: ICIS news]

A barge on the river Rhine near KoblenzLONDON (ICIS)--A 70km stretch of the river Rhine in Germany could be closed for more than three weeks until work is completed to salvage a sunken ship, an official said on Tuesday.

The closure was causing major disruption to river traffic, said Florian Krekel, a spokesman for shipping authority Wasser- und Schifffahrtsamt Bingen.

“We have received a lot of calls from different companies which are depending on deliveries,” he said.

The authority had planned to allow restricted passage of some vessels upstream of the accident site, near St Goarshausen, on Tuesday, but this had now been put back until Thursday.

“The sunken ship is moving and we can’t put it at risk by the passage of other ships,” Krekel said over the telephone.

The river is closed between Bingen, near Mainz, and Engers, just north of Koblenz.

Tests were now expected to be carried out on Thursday with the passage of a single ship followed by a survey, which could result in the stretch of river remaining completely closed.

Salvage work cannot begin until four cranes, which are currently en route to the site, were in place. Two were expected on Thursday and a third on Sunday, but Krekel said he did not know when the fourth would arrive.

The river would then remain closed until the salvage operation – expected to last between two and three weeks – was completed, he said.

The Waldhof, which was carrying 2,378 tonnes of sulphuric acid, capsized on 13 January while en route from German chemical major BASF’s production hub in Ludwigshafen to Antwerp, Belgium. Two crew members 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, but so far they have reported no major impact.

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By: Graeme Paterson
+44 20 8652 3214

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