Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Rhine Traffic Stopped...

The Rhine has been closed to shipping for the last seven days due to an accident at the infamous Lorelei, near St Goarhausen. A fully laden chemical tanker coming down from the BASF works at the Bodensee end (The Rhine runs roughly South to North through Germany), was pushed onto a rock ledge just opposite the Lorelei statue. In the strong currents running at present, the ship broached too and then the current took charge with the result that she capsized and is now lying on her side, overlooked by the Lorelei statue. Pictures showing this can be seen by following this link.

As the bend in the river at the Lorelei is very sharp, with a very powerful current running through it, the accident has meant that it is unsafe for anything else to attempt the transit. The sides and the bottom here are very rocky, making the danger to anything else that happens to touch ground a serious risk, so the authorities have closed the waterway.

Needless to say this is causing massive disruption to some industries which move almost all their freight along this route. I am told that the Rhine carries more freight in any single month than is carried on all the HGVs clogging the Autobahns. This I can believe, the usual steady stream of huge barges up and down the Rhine, each one carrying the equivalent freight load of around five hundred 40 ton trucks and some even more than that, is a sight to behold. Yet, despite the massive amount of traffic, the number of accidents are fairly low and the Rhine itself, remarkably clean.

This accident claimed two lives of the tanker crew of four men. As I write one body has been recovered, a hundred kilometres downstream, the other is though to be trapped inside the hull. Now we await the arrival of a pair of huge salvage cranes. It is hoped they will be able to lift the barge and right it without spilling any of the cargo - 2,400 tons of concentrated Sulphuric Acid.

This will be an interesting and delicate operation I'm thinking!

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