Germany's Kiel Canal reopened, but only to smaller vessels

31 October 2013 13:05  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Germany's Kiel Canal reopened in both directions to marine traffic on Thursday morning after salvage teams made further progress in the fight to save a listing fertilizer carrier, although only ships up to 140 metres in length are currently allowed to use the waterway.

The world's busiest artificial man-made marine corridor reopened at 11.30am local time - around 80 hours after the Dutch-flagged LPG tanker the Coral Ivory, which carries ammonia for Norwegian fertilizer giant Yara International, and the St Vincent and the Grenadines-flagged cargo ship Siderfly, collided near Brunsbuettel.

The accident left the latter, which is carrying 3,600 tonnes of urea, with two large holes in her hull and listing at up to a 24-degree-angle. Late on Wednesday, safety lines were attached to bulldozers to secure the vessel from the shore as three tugs had initially been used to stop the stricken ship from sinking or floating into the centre of the canal.

"The Kiel Canal opened to traffic from both sides at 11.30am this morning," said Ulrike Windhoevel, spokeswoman for Germany's Central Command for Maritime Emergencies (Havariekommando). "I believe there were seven vessels waiting on the Kiel side of the canal and four on the Brunsbuettel side, but I don't know their size which will determine if they can use the canal today.

"We can't presently say for sure when larger vessels [between 160 and 235 metres in length] will be permitted on the canal as we have to ensure the ropes will hold and so are taking it very carefully."

Turning to the Siderfly's fertilizer cargo - which is estimated to be worth around $1m (€730,000), she added: "The priority now is to remove the urea from the ship so the vessel can be stabilised and repair work begin on the hull. The plan is for the urea to be loaded onto a barge and then taken to land to be dried and processed for re-use.

"The vessel's insurers have said the Siderfly, which was built in 1980, could be a write-off given the extent of the damage but they have not yet made a final decision as to her future."

The Coral Ivory, a 116m-long ammonia carrier suffered no significant damage in Monday's 02.56am accident and was able to continue on her journey to Uusikaupunki, Finland, with a few thousand tonnes of the nitrogen fertilizer. The Siderfly was en route to Antwerp, Belgium.

Opened in 1895, the Kiel Canal slices through the base of the Jutland Peninsula between the North and Baltic Seas. The canal handles around 35,000 vessels a year, making it the busiest artificial waterway in the world.

($1 = €0.73)

By: Richard Ewing
+44 208 652 3214

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