Rhine downstream shipping to resume on trial basis on Wednesday

01 February 2011 21:14  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--German shipping authorities are planning to allow first trial runs on Wednesday for downstream shipping on the Rhine - almost three weeks after a chemical tanker capsized and closed the river.

The accident on 13 January prompted the closure of the Rhine near Koblenz but authorities later facilitated limited passage for upstream shipping in the direction of Switzerland.

Shipping authority Wasser- und Schiffahrtsamt Bingen said technical experts and salvage workers had managed to pump nitrogen into the sunken ship’s sulphuric tanks, to replace potentially explosive hydrogen.

The success of the operation prompted the authority to re-assess the security and safety situation for downstream shipping in the direction of the Netherlands, it said.

First trial runs for downstream shipping near Koblenz were expected to begin on Wednesday, the authority said. Depending on their outcome, the authority would then decide to what extent downstream shipping could be allowed to resume, it said.

In order to ensure that any downstream shipping would take place in a controlled manner, inland water police had imposed a temporary ban on downstream shipping movements for the 150km stretch from Ludwigshafen to Bad Salzig near Koblenz, the authority said.

The capsized ship, the Waldhof, carrying 2,400 tonnes of sulphuric acid, was en route from BASF’s chemicals production hub in Ludwigshafen to Antwerp, Belgium. Only two of its crew of four could be rescued.

In related logistics news, Germany's train drivers union said on Tuesday wage negotiations with rail carrier Deutsche Bahn had failed. The union said it would not hesitate to call on its members to go on strike, if necessary.

In 2007, a strike by German train drivers hit chemical railcar shipments in Europe’s largest economy, and strike actions in October last year disrupted passenger rail services in large parts of the country.

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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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