Stretch of Rhine closed as capsized ship's safety is tested

26 January 2011 14:16  [Source: ICIS news]

Stretch of Rhine closed for tests on sunken shipLONDON (ICIS)--A 70km stretch of the river Rhine in Germany has been closed as specialists from BASF begin examining the cargo of sulphuric acid on the ship that capsized on 13 January, the authorities said on Wednesday.

Florian Krekel, a spokesman for shipping authority Wasser- und Schifffahrtsamt Bingen, said the specialists, who began work at 14:00 local time (13:00 GMT) after two cranes were able to stabilise the Waldhof, needed to test if water had been in contact with the 2,400 tonnes of sulphuric acid in the ship's cargo and if there was a risk that highly explosive hydrogen had developed in the vessel.

Krekel added that the stretch of the Rhine between Bingen, near Mainz, and Engers, just north of Koblenz, in which the Waldhof capsized while carrying sulphuric acid from BASF’s petrochemicals hub in Ludwigshafen, Germany, to Antwerp, Belgium, would be closed for the rest of Wednesday and most likely the whole of Thursday.

Once the sulphuric acid was checked and deemed safe, the ship's contents would be then pumped into a different tanker and operations would begin to lift the vessel out of the river with the aid of a third crane, which was currently being prepared in a nearby harbour.

It was still unknown how long the removal of the vessel would take and when the passage of shipping would be resumed, said Krekel.

Although ships travelling upstream had been allowed to pass the salvage site since 21 January, they were now no longer able to do so.

Downstream shipping has remained closed since 13 January and 300 vessels have congregated on the waterway near the city of Mainz as they wait for permission to pass.

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

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By: Franco Capaldo
+44 (0)20 8652 3214

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