Rhine salvage work on capsized chemical ship to start on Saturday

21 January 2011 20:19  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--German shipping authorities expect to begin salvage work on a capsized chemical ship on the Rhine river on Saturday, officials said on Friday.

In a joint update, a regional shipping authority, police and the Rhineland Palatinate state government said the complex salvage work was expected to last several weeks, warning of disruptions in shipping on the Rhine near Koblenz during that time.

Meanwhile, downstream shipping at the affected stretch of the river remained closed, but a limited number of ships going upstream had been allowed to pass the salvage site, they said.

The chemical ship, which was carrying some 2,400 tonnes of sulphuric acid from BASF’s petrochemicals hub in Ludwigshafen, Germany, to Antwerp, Belgium, capsized on 13 January. Two of the ship's four-member crew are still missing and are feared dead.

Currently, some 190 ships are waiting north of the salvage site to go upstream in the direction of Switzerland, and another 180 ships are waiting south of the site to go downstream in the direction of the Netherlands, officials said.

Authorities had facilitated limited shipping around the salvage site, with 40 to 50 ship going upstream expected to be allowed to pass on Friday. Downstream shipping remained closed, and it was currently not possible to say when it could be resumed, they said.

The authorities also said several media reports claiming that sulphuric acid from the capsized ship had leaked were false.

Rhineland Palatinate’s government head Kurt Beck was expected to come to the site later on Friday to review salvage operations, they added.

In related news on Friday, French specialty chemical firm Rhodia said it was maintaining its force majeure (FM) on supplies of adipic acid and other intermediates from its 300,000 tonne/year plant at Chalampe, France, following logistics problems caused by the closure of Rhine.

The 1,230 km Rhine, which originates in Switzerland and flows through Germany to the Netherlands and the North Sea, is an important European shipping route for chemicals and other commodities, including minerals, coal and oil products.

Ships passing the affected scenic Middle Rhine gorge region near Koblenz transport an average 150,000 tonnes of goods each day – equivalent to 10,000 truck loads a day, authorities said.

For more on BASF, Rhodia and other producers visit ICIS company intelligence
To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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