Low water on the Rhine always presents serious problems for inland navigation, and now the giant BASF chemicals group wants action taken, including the possibility of having special barges built to ensure continuity of supply
The Port of Nordhafen in Ludwigshafen (Baden-Württemberg) is strategically vital for BASF, the giant chemicals group, as it accounts for more than 2.6 Mtpa of naptha, methanol, other chemicals and raw materials. Together with two other local Rhine ports used by the company, inbound movements of inland vessels provide the raw materials for 40 % of its total production.
Martin Brudermüller, CEO, has called on the federal government to take action. “The Rhine is the life line for Europe, particularly for Germany," he said. “If the river is carrying less water, more locks and dams will be needed and a discussion about new infrastructure has to be held at a national level."
Around 20 inland vessels are handled in Ludwigshafen daily. Due to low water, a continuing problem this year since spring, they are loaded to only 50% of capacity. BASF is considering investing in new infrastructure, its own inland fleet and pipelines.
“We are considering leasing or buying vessels," explained Uwe Liebelt, plant manager in Ludwigshafen. Possibilities include hydrofoil and air cushion ships. Additional pipelines or deepening of the fairway are also being considered.
Liebelt added that one inland vessel is equivalent to 80-100 truck loads.