UpdateFloods close Middle Rhine shipping routes until end of the week

04 June 2013 17:45  [Source: ICIS news]

(updates with DSM comment in paragraphs 14-16, additional shutdown information in paragraph 12)

The German town of PassauLONDON (ICIS)--Shipping along the middle section of the River Rhine through Germany is likely to remained closed until Friday at the earliest, an official said on Tuesday, as flood waters continue to buffet Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.

According to Florian Krekel, a spokesman for German inland shipping authority Wasser- und Schifffahrtsamt Bingen, Friday is the earliest that section of the river, running between Bingen am Main and Bonn, is likely to re-open, given the current water levels.

Krekel said:  “At the moment, [the Middle Rhine] is closed for shipping. The Upper Rhine is also closed. Today we had the peak water level, and from today on the water level will drop slowly, but it will still need some days to let the water levels drop below the critical limit.

“We expect that shipping will reopen [at the] end of the week. Maybe Friday, maybe Saturday,” he added.

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

The waterways of the Danube through Germany were also closed to boat traffic as of the evening of June 3, according to Germany’s Federal Institute for Hydrology (BfG).

Gernot Pauli, chief engineer of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine (CCNR), said that shipping has resumed on the Upper Rhine between Koblenz, Germany, and Bonn, although parts of that stretch of the river remain closed.

“Whereas yesterday’s water level predictions and estimates [led me to] believe that the Rhine between Koblenz and Bonn may be closed today for navigation, this actually does not seem to be so. This is important, as the traffic to and from the Mosel is not interrupted,” he said.

According to Pauli, shipping on currently inaccessible sections of the Upper Rhine should re-open on Wednesday or Thursday, but conceded that parts of the Middle Rhine are likely to be closed for shipping for longer.

He said: "The water level on the upper Rhine is falling. Thus only parts of the Upper Rhine and the upper part of the Middle Rhine are affected at the moment.

“I expect shipping on the Upper Rhine, where currently not possible, to commence again tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Only shipping on the upper part of the Middle Rhine may remain closed until Thursday or Friday,” he added.

Flooding is also severe on parts of the River Elbe, which runs through the Czech Republic and Germany. Epichlorohydrin (ECH) and liquid epoxy resins (LER) producer Spolchemie has been forced to stop production at its Usti nad Labem plant, located in the north of the Czech Republic, due to flooding in the area. Spolana has also shut down production at its Neravotice site in the country.

Water levels at the stretch of the Danube flowing past Passau, southeastern Germany, were measured at 12.20 metres on Monday 3 June, exceeding the levels seen in the record flood of 1954, according to Germany’s Federal Institute for Hydrology (BfG).

A spokesperson for DSM said at 16:30 GMT on Tuesday that the waters of the Danube were receding near its facility in Linz, Austria, indicating that the peak water level may have been reached, and that production was never affected at the site.

“The fire brigade did an excellent job to keep the water out, and so far it seems under control. The Danube is retreating again, so that seems all under control [on the site].”

“The peak level reached were about 9.30 metres, a metre higher than in the flood in 2002, [but] It didn’t reach the boundaries of the Linz facility,” he added.

By: Tom Brown
+44 208 652 3214

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